July 26, 2021

In Burkina Faso, anger is mounting among the population at the increase in attacks

Solhan. In Burkina Faso, the name of this mining village in the northeast of the country is likely to remain associated for a long time with the macabre images of men, women and children lying on the ground, mass graves filled with dozens of bodies wrapped in the go quickly in mats. On the night of June 4 to 5, armed men attacked this locality, killing 160 people according to local sources, 132 according to the authorities. Never had a massacre of such violence been perpetrated in the country. A “Butcher’s shop” a « carnage », ” the horror ». On social networks, the words of the Burkinabés, usually so modest when it comes to expressing their pain and suffering, are borrowed from a deep bitterness.

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Three weeks after Solhan’s drama and a seventy-two-hour national mourning period, the shock wave remains intact. Faced with the multiplication of terrorist attacks, each time more deadly, anger is roaring. On June 12, several thousand people marched in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region, to denounce “Inaction” of the government.

Saturday, June 26, after new attacks in Burkina Faso, other demonstrations, bringing together several thousand participants, took place this time in Kaya (center-north) and in Titao (north), where the premises of the high commission of the province were ransacked. The Burkinabe opposition also announced a series of marches on July 3 and 4 across the country, to “Protest against the deterioration of the security situation and demand strong measures”.

Sunday evening, in a message to the nation, the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, launched an appeal for ” detention “ and called on political parties and civil society organizations to “Stay” to these events “So as not to create the bed of our disunity, in the face of the common enemy”. But more and more Burkinabés are questioning the capacity of the authorities to cope with the security crisis which, in six years, has already killed several thousand people and forced more than a million displaced people to flee their homes.

“Silence” from the authorities

This morning of June 5, when Yahiya Hama Dicko, a 26-year-old student from Dori, learned of the killing in Solhan, alerted by a friend, he collapsed in tears in the middle of the classroom. Of grief, but also of incomprehension and anger. “How was it possible to massacre these people for more than five hours without anyone reacting?” “, wonders the young man, whose uncle, residing in Solhan, survived the killing. For him, it is “The attack too many”. The late intervention of the army, the « silence » authorities, life under curfew. “It doesn’t work anymore, we are tired of this situation and we feel abandoned”, regrets Yahiya Hama Dicko, who decided to launch, with several inhabitants, the Dori march, on June 12, for “Challenge the government”.

Since the start of the jihadist insurgency in 2015 in Burkina Faso, the Sahel region has been the hardest hit by the violence. More than 400,000 displaced people have fled their homes, nearly 400 schools have closed, the administration has deserted many municipalities and the economy is sluggish. “The population lives asphyxiated, we are caught between armed groups, self-defense militias and security forces. Many villages have been completely emptied of their inhabitants and no longer exist ”, rapporte Yahiya Hama Dicko.

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Whole swathes of the territory are now beyond the control of the state. In the north and east of the country, some villages have come under the control of jihadist groups, who have imposed Sharia law there. The feeling of abandonment continues to worsen in the affected areas, which also suffer from a lack of infrastructure, social services, jobs and economic investment. “We have the impression of not being as Burkinabé as the others, we feel like second-class citizens”, this student is saddened.

“We are in pain”

In Titao too, in the north, the exasperation is growing. “Of the dead and the dead, we don’t want any more ”, “No to the abandonment of our province”, “We want to cultivate our fields”, could we read on the placards of the demonstrators on Saturday. The organizers demand in particular the deployment of a military detachment in the city and the equipment of the “volunteers for the defense of the fatherland” (VDP), the civilian auxiliaries recruited by the army. In the region, many inhabitants have decided to take up arms to defend their villages themselves. “Many have been killed, they are poorly equipped and not all have been trained. We alert the security forces but they do not come not, ”denounces a spokesperson for the march.

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In a video that went viral, released on June 21, a group of VDPs in the province even appealed for help to the authorities. “We are in pain, the enemy is stronger than us. (…) If they have sold our homeland, they just have to say it and we will withdraw ”, threatens their leader, in Moré language, indicating not to have received the compensation provided by the State in exchange for their engagement.

On the side of the security forces too, the discontent is mounting. On June 21, eleven police officers were ambushed while on a relief mission in north-central Burkina Faso. “The men do not have the right equipment, they lack weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles, they have to take great risks when they move from the capital, by road”, denounces Siyalé Moussa Palm, the general secretary of Unapol, the police union. What affect the morale of the units. According to our information, during the funeral of the police in Kaya, colleagues and families of the victims insulted the Minister of Security, Ousséni Compaoré, and tried to prevent his participation in the ceremony.

Concern of observers

In June, a hundred “Terrorists” were neutralized during a joint operation between the armies of Burkina Faso and Niger, on the border of the two countries, according to a statement. But such announcements struggle to reassure the populations, who are the first victims of the violence.

On the ground, the security forces remain completely absent from 30% of the territory and are slow to intervene, because of difficult access and mined tracks. According to a local security source, the first units of the Sebba detachment, a small town capital of the department located 14 kilometers from Solhan, took nearly seven hours to arrive at the scene of the massacre, after the residents were alerted. “Why was no sanction taken? How to explain that the attackers returned the next day? Why has no authority come to count the dead? “, castigates Yahiya Hama Dicko, who assures us that“About 200” people were killed that night.

Read the interview: Sahel: “The military cannot be an alternative to the political problems of our countries”

In Burkina Faso, the president, in his speech on Sunday, was expected at the turn. Like others here, the student, said to himself “Disappointed”. Wished him “Strong measures” and “A reshuffle”. During a press conference on June 25, the opposition demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Burkinabé Minister of Defense. “The government has no strategy to fight against insecurity”, denounces the leader of the opposition, Eddie Komboïgo. Growing anger and mistrust worry some observers. “The risk of a Malian scenario is real”, blows the journalist and analyst Boureima Ouedraogo.

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