Menu Menu

Abductions from armed assailants continue in Burkina Faso

Earlier this month, 66 people were abducted by armed assailants in the country’s northern province of Soum, outside two villages in the Arbinda district.

For a decade, Burkina Faso has encountered numerous kidnappings by violent Islamists with confirmed links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) jihadist groups.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), almost 2 million civilians have been displaced and thousands killed over the years. The internal displacement is considered among the highest in Africa.

Over the years, threats have become increasingly severe, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, gender-based violence, forced recruitment, and trafficking to other West African countries.

Thousands of young boys have been recruited by the militant groups. According to reports by locals, children as young as 14 assist the jihadist groups in attacking villages.

Some regions in the northern part of Burkina Faso have been controlled by militant groups for years.

Both government and non-governmental humanitarian assistance is limited due to the militant groups blocking the roads leading to these areas.

Hunger and lack of water has increasingly forced the locals to look for wild fruits in the thick forests which lead to their abductions. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) estimates that approximately 40% of the country is not under government control, in particular, the northern regions.

This month’s kidnapping is already a major threat not only to the locals but also the international community.

International military assistance has been widely criticised by a huge part of the population. The country’s military government have called for their departure.

Last Friday, Ouagadougou residents protested, and the military government issued a statement demanding the French leave within a month.

France has had a presence in Burkina Faso since 2013, fighting the Islamist terror groups in the Sahel region – including Mali.

The public has accused France of not improved the country’s security situation.

Burkina Faso’s weak security forced the military to stage two successful coups last year, in an effort to try and contain jihadist groups attacks.

During the early January coup, the government and parliament’s suspension affected the economy as sanctions from international organisations and countries were imposed.

The political instability has instigated more abductions in the northern parts. Education continues to be paralyzed in most northern regions controlled by the extremists.

Late last year, the insecurity crisis in Burkina Faso put 4.9 million people in humanitarian assistance and 3.4 million people in need of food according to an OCHA report. The recent abduction caused local and international uproar for the improvement of the country’s security.

This month’s abduction has been termed as the ‘largest’ by the country’s army officials. The UN human rights chief Volker Türk issued a statement.

‘I call for the immediate and unconditional release of all the abducted women and for the national authorities to promptly conduct an effective, impartial and independent investigation to identify those responsible and hold them to account.’

The UN Secretary General’s Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement, ‘the Secretary-General calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted women and girls and for their safe return to their families. The Secretary-General urges the Burkinabé authorities to spare no efforts in bringing those responsible for this crime to justice.’

Both the US and France called for justice to those abducted and urged the military government to conduct a swift investigation. West Africa’s political and economic union ECOWAS has reassured its commitment in supporting Burkina Faso in fighting the jihadist groups.