Burkina Faso is Experiencing a Surge in Violence. Here’s Why

Burkina Faso, the landlocked country in West Africa, is in the midst of an escalating humanitarian emergency. Over half a million people have been displaced in the last year — a 500% increase from one year ago, according to the latest data from the United Nations.

The vast majority of the newly displaced are fleeing an unrelenting series of terrorist attacks. Most of these attacks are occurring in regions near the border with Mali. But terrorist violence has also reached the capitol city Ouagadougou including high profile strikes against foreign targets, like an attack on a western hotel in 2016 and an attack on the French embassy in 2018.

As we enter 2020, the scale and pace of terrorist attacks has picked up in intensity. This includes a late December attack in the town of Arbinda, in a province that borders Mali, which saw at least 37 civilians killed.  Also, earlier this year, there was a bombing of a bus carrying school children that killed 14 people.

This surge in violence in Burkina Faso comes six years after peaceful protests lead to the ouster of longtime ruler Blaise Compaoré.  And according to my guest today, the increase pace of terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso might be tied to upcoming elections in 2020, which are being contested by Blaise Compaoré’s political party.

Arsene Brice Bado is professor of political science at the center for research and action for peace, known as CERAP, at the Jesuit University in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. He is from Burkina Faso, and in this conversation he offers a few explanations for why his country is experiencing such violence after a rather euphoric period following the ouster of Blaise Compaoré.

We kick off discussing some recent attacks in Burkina Faso before having a longer conversation about the causes and consequences of increasing violence in Burkina Faso. We also discuss what kinds of policies and what kinds of international engagement might help reduce the prospect of further violence.

If you have twenty minutes and want to understand why Burkina Faso is experiencing a man-made humanitarian emergency, and what that means for the broader Sahel region — and the world,  have a listen.

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