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Tackling terrorism in Burkina and the possible threat of proxy wars

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Following the unanimous adoption on 23 January by the National Assembly in Burkina Faso of a law authorizing the recruitment of civilians into the army, the question of the relevance of this initiative remains very critical.

The President of the Network for Strategic Reflection on Security in the Sahel (2r3s), Jérôme Pigné, asserted that this new law exposes a situation which is deteriorating and points to a political power which has not found alternatives to healing its wounds.

“The adoption of such a law shows that in Burkina Faso, we are short of ideas, that we have no short-term solutions. In short, we have not found solutions to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, instability,” the researcher said.

In an interview with APA (Agence de Presse Africaine), Pigné spoke about his long-term fears of what he called a proxy war through armed militias.

While questioning the effectiveness of this popular mobilization in the face of increasingly better organised groups, he stressed that Burkina Faso has an “already fragile social fabric” and the involvement of ordinary citizens in this asymmetrical war would only aggravate the situation.

On this basis, he is of the belief that “we are thus opening up a new battlefield where we are putting the civilian population at the heart of the problem. And that is really dangerous because we are incapable today of weighing the pros and cons of the potential consequences of involving civilians in this fight against armed groups”.

The Thomas More Institute’s Associate Researcher wondered to what extent the Burkinabe authorities, “incapable” of ensuring that the security forces do not commit abuses, will succeed in governing the actions of civilians “whose job is anything but to guarantee the security” of the population.

“There is a real risk of degradation of social relations, of the social fabric in Burkina Faso,” he warned.

On 20 January 2020, when thirty-six civilians died in a terrorist attack in the north-central province of Sanmatenga, Burkina Faso adopted a bill for the recruitment of volunteers into the army.

Officially, civilians enlisted for homeland security will receive an initial military training lasting fourteen days.

They will be trained by specialists in weaponry, basic tactics, including ambushes, management of an observation post, civic and moral education, rules of discipline, principles of the use of weapons and respect for human rights.

In order to prevent this voluntary work from fueling terrorist networks, the bill stresses, recruitment will be followed by a morality inquiry and will be supervised down to the level of the military region.

These volunteers will also be accountable before the courts for reprehensible acts committed during their missions.

This should make it possible, according to the Minister of Defence, Chérif Sy, to prevent volunteers from becoming militias.



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