Misery fuels the jihadist boom in Burkina Faso

Misery fuels the jihadist boom in Burkina Faso

The jihadist message is resounding. No more Western language or learning outside the traditional customs of the village, only Arabic is studied and nothing but the Koran. The first warning comes through the mosques and the second one becomes retaliation. Then, the motorized columns of guerrillas burst into the center of town, firing into the air, leveling schools, kidnapping or executing teachers in their classrooms and punishing the community by burning markets.

We are not talking about the Boko Haram modes in the tortured northeast of Nigeria, but about the daily reality in Burkina Faso, more than 1,600 kilometers away. But there is no room for comparisons, according to Hamed Ouattara, the most international artist in the country and recipient of the prize for the best African designer. "Not at all," he says from Ouagadougou, the capital. "We are not talking about a similar problem because the peoples are not the same neither in the cultural nor in the mental. Here we have a national and patriotic cohesion to face the division ».

THE CRISIS IN FIGURES

The violence.

Since January 2018 there have been 332 incidents, with a total of 376 deaths, according to Unicef ​​data.

Homeless.

The attacks generated 136,000 internally displaced persons and 11,000 refugees.

Teaching.

At least 119,000 students are affected by the closure of 954 schools.

Food insecurity.

Almost a million Burkinabe people do not know if they can eat the next day.

Reality, however, questions its interpretation. The territory, which marks the transition between the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea, suffers a devastating terrorist offensive by groups linked to Al-Qaida and the Islamic State that has become more acute in recent months. The Government alleges that the militiamen come from Niger and Mali, but Ansarul Islam, one of the most active, has its origins in the provinces of the north and east. In 2017, the local imam Malam Ibrahim Dicko founded this organization, which applies 'manu militari' a rigorist vision of the Muslim faith and denounces the privileged situation enjoyed by the families of the morabitun, the native religious leaders.

After the dictatorship

The expansion of radicals in West Africa favors misery. 45% of its 20 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and the unbridled population growth aggravates the general shortage. Ethnic differences also complicate the scenario. As is the case in other areas of the sub-Saharan region, the livestock and agricultural communities maintain entrenched conflicts over the control of water and land. The Peul or Fulani, owners of herds, are blamed for their collaboration with the fundamentalists and this position has led to inter-tribal confrontations after the commission of some raids.

The violence has worsened in the last five years, since Burkina Faso shook the dictatorship of President Blaise Compaoré. The popular uprising ended three decades of oppressive power. Unfortunately, as happened in other countries, the fall of an authoritarian regime was also accompanied by the disarticulation of the military apparatus and intelligence services related to the tyrant, circumstances that have favored jihadist expansion. The JNIM, the Support Front to Islam and the Muslims, is a coalition of forces of diverse origin that have taken advantage of this weakness to enter the interior.

The concentration of incidents in the northern fringe can not hide the vulnerability of the entire country. The destabilization of this State without exit to the sea supposes a qualitative jump within the African strategy since it allows its expansion towards the riparian countries of the Gulf of Guinea. The operation carried out by French commandos a fortnight ago aimed to rescue two tourists kidnapped in a forest park in the last country and who were to be taken to Mali, while the Spanish Salesian Antonio César Férnandez was killed near the border with Togo.

The social profile also responds to this mixed condition, geographically and socially. Although the majority of its population is Muslim, 25% profess the Christian faith and the radicals have assumed a virulent campaign against the churches that anticipates the will to undertake a religious cleansing. The rupture of coexistence, model so far, seems another of its purposes.

A Spanish missionary, witness of the increase of attacks on Christians

When the Spanish priest E. J. arrived in Burkina Faso, almost half a century ago, the country was called Upper Volta, as the French colonizers called it. After settling in several regions, his last destination was the city of Arbinda, in the north, in the Sahel. "Everything was peaceful," he says. But last year he had to leave the place "because of the incessant attacks of the jihadists, who made the area very insecure, especially for a white stranger like me" and although it remains within its borders, it preserves its identity and, simply, defines as «a refugee, a missionary with a Basque surname».

The harassment of Christians is recent, started a few months ago, although it has already proved terrible. The murder of the young priest Simeón Ñampá took place only a month ago, while celebrating the mass. "When the terrorists appeared, who had surrounded the church, the abbe Simeon had time to hide the altar boys under the altar and he himself tried to escape through the sacristy, dressed in his dawn, but they saw him at the door and there he was mortally wounded. . Before leaving, they burned the coral books, fired at the tabernacle and set fire to the clinic ambulance and two bars. "

The story does not end there. "Another five men who came from a town with the image of the Virgin in a motorcycle lost their lives in an attack. And the image, broken. And on Sunday, May 26, there were four other faithful in a church who perished along with the catechist. "

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