Beyond the traumatizing incidents of draught, military coups and the pandemic rage of coronavirus, Burkina Faso is now gripped in the throes of destabilizing savagery of Islamic terrorists.
With November in view, this is an obviously grim election year for President Marc Christian Kabore, who, in 2015, won 52 per cent of the votes to emerge as the candidate to rule the landlocked, poor Sahelian country
His party, Movement du Peuple pour le Progres – MPP – (People’s Movement for Progress), is backing him for re-election despite his dismal handling of the socioeconomically crippling rampages of Islamic terrorists.
The economy and sociopolitical stability of Burkina Faso have been very adversely affected by the terrorist activities of jihadi groups. A sad development that has led to the fleeing of teachers, the forced closure of schools and the consequential degradation of the educational sector in affected regions. Ironically, the objective of the jihadists is to put an end to Western or formal education throughout the Sahelian region for an eventful return to caliphate system of the Dark Ages.
The G5 Sahel Group comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger Republic. These countries have been continually reduced to bloody battlefields of wanton mass murders, rape, paedophilia, plunder and heartbreaking waves of devastation and mayhem.
Early this year, Muhammed Ibn Chambers, the United Nations’ envoy to West Africa, informed the Security Council that: “ Since 2016, attacks (of Islamic terrorists) have increased fivefold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone.”
The three main ghazi groups that have established strongholds in northern and eastern Burkina Faso are: Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
The year 2020 opened with one of the most bloody attacks of the Islamic militants, leading to the gruesome death of 30 people in a luxury hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The attack was carried out by Al Quaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has since bonded with two other groups, namely, Ansar Fine and Al Murabitoun to form GSIM. Beyond Burkina Faso, GSIM has battle bases in Mali and Niger and was behind the attacks against the French Embassy as well as the Army headquarters in Ouagadougou in March 2018.
The notorious Islamic militant groups have been ruthlessly strategising to move their battalions into the coastal countries of West Africa. As a consequence of such resolve, they have been systematically spreading mayhem and merciless massacres into West Africa’s maritime nations.
Last month (June 11), after the Ivoiran Army had trumpeted having successfully booted Islamic terrorists out of the country’s northern border with Burkina Faso, the daredevil terrorists issued the military forces a red card for such logistical miscalculation. And the controversial red card came in the form of an attack against an army-and-police post near the border town of Kafolo. During the lightning guerrilla blitz, the ghazis mowed down 14 soldiers and then disappeared into the wild.
In a swift response to the gruesome attack of the jihadists, Cote d’Ivoire has established a military zone in the north of the country. The zone has been designed to have a single central command for military operations of defensive and offensive dimensions, as situations demand.
Along the stretch of 550km (340 miles) of border territory that Cote d’Ivoire shares with Burkina Faso, the savage machinations of Islamic terrorists, over the past five years, have claimed almost 1,000 lives, while rendering some 860,000 people homeless.
Last May, an odd terror wave involving attacks against churches and the cold-blooded murder of priests in northern Burkina Faso signalled an outrageously destabilizing tactic of the ghazi terrorists.
The continual attacks and bloodlust have forced more than 100,000 people out of their homes and into the sinuous streets of sorrow, suffering, misery, helplessness and hopelessness.
The ensuing humanitarian tragedy has challenged the combat capabilities of the army in Burkina Faso to its most vulnerable extremes in the face of well-armed, well-trained and well-funded terrorists with access to virtually limitless funds from their wealthy and powerful sovereign and corporate sponsors from across the Middle East.
Despite support received from the United States and France, the army of Burkina Faso is reportedly understaffed, under the strain of inadequate funding and has, therefore, been under unbearable pressure to contain the rampages and ubiquitous blitz of the ghazi terrorists.
It was this messy mix of desperation and exasperation that led, early this year, to the legislation allowing the military in Burkina Faso to train civilian volunteers and arm them to fight the menacing ghazi terrorists. This paramilitary approach approved by the national assembly, mandates requisite training covering basic military tactics, strict discipline and the respect for fundamental human rights.
Minister of Defence of Burkina Faso, Cherif Sy, hailed the move as the best option available to the military, which has been outnumbered by the ever-profilerating hordes of Islamic terrorists.
Sy had noted that the “Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland could be likened to the Algerian fight against colonization and Islamists or the French resistance movement during World War 2.”
Recruits must be over the age of 18 and must pass the critical screening of local community leaders working along with state security.
Cynics and well-informed military observers have given poor rating to such a paramilitary formation since such hastily trained volunteer fighters would pose as a ridiculous mismatch to the highly trained ghazi terrorists. And it must be understood that many of these professional terrorists have been used to severe and gruelling combat situations during previous battles across North Africa and the Middle East.
Before the advent of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, the state security of Burkina Faso had established a strong operational relationship with the local vigilance groups known as Koglweogo. These vigilantes have been reportedly abusing their intimate ties with state security by engaging in extra-judicial killings. In November, last year, a United Nations committee of experts raised issues against the Koglweogo vigilance groups, noting that they were not being properly monitored to ensure disciplined and lawful dealings with terrorist groups.
Within the emerging tripartite arrangement of the Army of Burkina Faso, the Kogleweogo vigilante and the groping newbies of volunteer fighters, there will be an urgent need for strategies that will have to be perfected by President Marc Kabore to ensure a timely end to the ghazi mayhem in his country. And achieving such stoppage of Islamic terrorism would have to be the focal point of his administration, if the votes favour his second term at the Presidential Palace in November.