African Union must assist Burkina Faso following attacks by armed groups

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Dr Mustafa Bothwell Mheta

Shawwal 26, 1442 2021-06-07

Daily News Analysis

by Dr Mustafa Bothwell Mheta

Gunmen killed at least 132 people in Burkina Faso’s volatile north on June 4 night, the government said.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned “the heinous attack” and called on countries to step up the fight against “violent extremism”.

The assailants struck during the night, killing residents of the village of Solhan in Yagha province, which borders Niger.

They also burned houses and the village market, according to a government statement on June 5.

The victims included seven children.

The government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura said another 40 residents were wounded.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore called the killings “barbaric” and said the Burkinabe people “must remain united and solid against these obscurantist forces”.

No group has claimed responsibility so far.

The assault was the deadliest recorded in years in Burkina Faso.

Since 2015, the West African country has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly attacks from groups who say they have links to so-called “al-Qaeda” and more recently to “ISIL/ISIS”.

The groups are sponsored by criminal gangs who are after stealing and smuggling the country’s mineral resources.

The attacks first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions particularly in the east, causing one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises.

Over one million people in Burkina Faso have been forced to flee their homes because of the long-running conflict.

Armed groups have stepped up attacks on the army and civilians despite the presence of thousands of French troops and other international and regional forces across the Sahel.

The presence of these multinational forces needs to be probed by the African Union (AU) in countries such as Burkina Faso, the DRC, and now Mozambique.

The people of Africa are beginning to realize that there is a nefarious agenda behind such attacks.

Many suspect this is aimed at looting, pillaging, and plundering Africa’s natural resources.

The UN Secretary-General expressed “outrage” at the killings in Burkina Faso and offered the country his organization’s “full support”.

Guterres strongly condemned the heinous attack and underscored the urgent need for the international community to redouble support to member States in the fight against violent extremism and its unacceptable human toll.

Burkina Faso declared 72 hours of mourning for the victims.

In Solhan, the assailants struck at approximately 2 am against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), a civilian defence force that backs the national army.

They then attacked homes and carried out “executions”.

The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help Burkina Faso’s ill-equipped military to fight armed groups but it has continued to suffer more than 200 fatalities.

These volunteers are only given two weeks’ military training before deploying them alongside the security forces.

They typically carry out surveillance, information-gathering, or escort duties.

According to Corrine Dufka, Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director, the Solhan attack followed a familiar pattern seen elsewhere in the Sahel this year.

In neighboring Niger, armed attackers killed 137 people in March in what analysts and rights groups said could have been revenge for killings by self-defence groups in the area or for the arrest of people suspected of belonging to armed groups.

The June 4 attack brings the total killed by armed groups in the Sahel region since January to more than 500.

Most of these killings were supposedly carried out by fighters who claim to be aligned with the so-called “Islamic State of the Greater Sahara”.

The attack in Solhan came just weeks after defence minister Cheriff Sy and other military top brass visited the neighbouring town of Sebba to assure people that life had returned to normal, following a number of military operations in the area.

What raises suspicion is that soldiers at nearby military barracks where the attack occurred took no action and failed to arrive on the scene.

People across the Sahel now feel that they cannot rely on security forces to protect them.

This is probably a deliberate policy in order to prepare people to accept AFRICOM at the appropriate time.

With the security situation deteriorating, analysts say more violent attacks are likely in Burkina Faso and neighbouring countries.

The whole of Africa is now in danger as foreign troops are poised to invade the continent again, not to protect the people but to steal its mineral resources.

Burkina Faso has experienced an awful massacre.

The AU should seriously probe this phenomenon now.

This has nothing to do with the so-called ISIS or al-Qaeda wanting to set up the so-called Khilafat (Caliphate) anywhere.

More such attacks can be expected even in countries where there are no Muslim populations.

Dr. Mustafa Mheta is Senior researcher/Head of Africa Desk at Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa

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