Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Burkina Faso Caught Between Jihadists and Imperialist Forces

By New Age Islam Staff Writer 29 March 2023 Burkina Faso Is The Second Worst Terror-Hit Country In The World Main Points: 1. Burkina Faso is a Muslim majority country in West Africa. 2. 65 per cent population of Burkina Faso is Muslim. 3. It has been going through a civil war since 2016. 4. Terror groups Ansarul Islam and Jamat Nusratul Islam wal Muslimeen are active in Burkina Faso. 5. These groups oppose modern education. ----- A photo taken on October 30, 2018 shows Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in... Copyright © africanews ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP or licensors ------ According to The Global Terrorism Index 2023, Burkina Faso is the 2nd most affected country by terrorism in the world, the first being Afghanistan. The country has witnessed terrorist violence by Islamist groups, mainly Jamat Nusrat ul Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and Ansarul Islam. The enormity and severity of the conflict and the strength of the terrorists can be gauged from the fact that the Burkina Faso government controls 60 per cent of the land while the jihadists control 40 per cent of the land. The conflict between the Islamists affiliated to the Al Qaida in the Maghreb and the government began in 2015. This coincides with the establishment of the so-called caliphate of the ISIS in Mosul in June 2014. In 2016, a militant group named Ansarul Islam was founded by Imam Ibrahim Malam and another jihadist group Jamat Nusrat ul Islam wal Muslimeen was founded in 2017. Since then the two groups have conducted hundreds of attacks on Christians, Burkina Faso army, churches, villages and ethnic minorities. 350 people civilians and soldiers have died only last year. JNIM has been termed one of the deadliest terrorist outfits of the world in 2022. Burkina Faso had been a French colony until 1960. After its independence in 1960, it has had a turbulent history marked by military coups. The political instability was the main cause in the country's vulnerability to militancy. Burkina Faso has witnessed coups in 1966, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1987and 2022. Though the country has won independence from France, France has still a powerful presence in the political affairs of the country and a section of the population thinks that France is behind the militancy. The belief comes from the fact that President Thomas Sankara, who was president from 1982 to 1987 till his assassination was the most successful leader of Burkina Faso. He launched many progressive programmes in the country like nationwide literacy, land redistribution to peasants, railways and roadways construction, banning Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage and polygamy. He nationalised land and mineral wealth of Burkina Faso. He was also against the financial dependence of the country on the IMF and World Bank and wanted an end to the interference of France, US, and European Union in the affairs of Burkina Faso. He wanted Burkina Faso to be economically and politically independent. This antagonised the imperialist powers and in 1987, President Blaise Campaore staged a coup against President Sankara and removed him. Blaise Campaore argued that Sankara was responsible for the deterioration of relations of Burkina Faso with France. This strengthened the belief of the people that France was behind Sankara's ouster. Campaore was perhaps the longest ruling President of Burkina Faso as he was president from 1987 to 2014. The current President of Burkina Faso is Ibrahim Traore since 2022. during the last 7 years, militancy in Burkina Faso has only grown. The militant groups affiliated with ISIS and Al Qaida have attacked not only churches but also mosques. Here is an account of major terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso since 2016: 1. In February 2016, Al Qaida in Maghreb with another jihadi outfit Al Mourabitoun attacked Splendid Hotel and Cappucino cafe bar in the capital city of Ouadougou and killed 30 people. 2. On 11 October, it attacked a mosque and killed 16 people. 3. In 2018, JNIM attacked French embassy. 4. In 2019, jihadists gunned down 12 civilians. 5. From mid-2018 to February 2019, jihadists killed 42 people. 6. From.2019, the jihadists started persecuting Christians in the country and attacked Protestant and Catholic churches and Christian processions. They killed priests and pastors along with worshippers. 7. On April 28, 2019, six people including a pastor was killed in a Protestant church in Silgadji. 8. On 12 May, six people including a priest were killed in a Catholic church by Islamists. 9. On 2 January, 2020, militants attacked villages Nagraoga and Alamaou and killed 14 people. 10. On 25 January, Silgadji was attacked again and 36 civilians died. 11. On 16 February 2020, a Protestant church in Pansi was attacked leaving 24 dead. 12. Another church was attacked a week before Pansi attack in which 5 including a pastor was dead. 13. On 4- 5 June 201, militants massacred 170 people in Solhan and Tadaryat. 14. On14 November 2021, JNIM killed 53 civilians. 15. Interestingly, in December 2021, a group of civilians stopped a convoy in Kaya department alleging that France was secretly helping jihadists. 16. In December, the Islamists killed 40 people. 17. In 2022, 350 people were killed by militants. Hundreds of civilians have also been killed by the army and special forces. Ethnic minority community Fula members are often the target of militants, Volunteers for the Defence of Homeland (VDH) amd militants. The militants also attack schools claiming that the schools carry western style indoctrination programmes On 4 June, 2020, a school bus carrying students was blown up in Tougan leaving 14 students dead. Many students left schools and thousands of schools were closed. The jihadists recruit dropped out students for militancy. According to a Human Rights Watch report: "Armed groups, notably armed Islamists increased their recruitment and use children. At least 15 children were among those detained in the high security prison. Over 300,000 children were out of school due to the closure of 2,224 schools as a result of insecurity as of May, approximately 10 per cent of the country's schools, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). During 2021, at least 30 education- related attacks by Islamist armed groups, including damaging or pillaging schools and abducting, detaining and threatening teachers were documented by Burkina,Faso 's education ministry or the Armed Conflict Location and Data ( ACLED) project." Due to the civil conflict, 1.4 million people have been internally displaced between 2016 to 2021, which is 6 per cent of the population. In this conflict, apart from the government forces, VDH ( volunteers for the Defence of Homeland) and civil militias help the government forces. The US funds training workshops and relief and humanitarian work. However, allegations of extrajudicial killings of innocent people or villagers by the forces, or arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killings by VDH are also made. Burkina Faso's international partners including France, European Union, the United Nations and the United States readily denounce abuses by Islamist armed groups but are largely reluctant to denounce or push for investigation into those by pro- government forces. Another aspect of the conflict is that France claimed last year that 60 jihadists were 'neutralised' by Burkina Faso soldiers. It is not clear what neutralisation of jihadists means. They will be perhaps released on the basis that they were reformed and can return to the mainstream. This is how terrorists are freed to allow them to carry on their operation. The scenario in Burkina Faso presents a pattern similar to that of other regions going through terrorism. Jihadists provide imperialist forces the justification for military interference in Muslim majority countries but terrorism only grows despite their funding, training and operations. The jihadist groups attack schools, mosques, churches and kill innocent civilians. Some clerics or mullahs support the jihadists on the basis of their opposition to France or the US. Schools are branded centres of kufr (anti-Islam education). Civil militias are also created which persecute innocent civilians in the name of fighting terrorism. Some militias are created to fight the ' anti -Islamic' government. This model was experimented in Syrian civil war. The only difference is that the imperial power in the Midle East was the United States while it is France in West Africa. France removed President Sankara because he was anti-France while the US removed Saddam Hussain because he was anti-US. Jihadism has proved a useful tool for the imperialist and expansionist forces for political and military intervention in Islamic countries and extremist exegetes and ideologues among Muslims promote these terrorist and militant outfits that are used by imperialist forces for their own political interests. 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