In Burkina Faso, the deterioration of the security situation is worsening

A brief account of the context

The security situation is deteriorating from day to day since 2015, with a sharp increase during the last year, despite the fact that the president declared the state of emergency in 14 provinces on January 1, 2019. Three main terrorist groups are active, especially in the North and East regions which are beyond the control of the central government : the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM) and Ansar al-Islam. Alliances of convenience are occasionally shaped between these three groups, but also between them and many other small local groups considered as terrorists groups [1]. The lawless situation in the North and the East also offers a fertile ground for selfdefence militias to grow. Under the guise of protecting the local population, those militias play an important role in aggravating the intercommunal conflicts, particularly between the indigenous – often agricultural – populations and the Peuhls, whose herds destroy the fields.

Increasing trend of deadly attacks since last August

On August 19, an attack on a military camp in Koutougou (North, Soum province) killed 24 soldiers, remaining to date the deadliest terrorist attack ever among the Burkinabe army [2]. A few days later, on August 30, a military detachment base in Tongomael (North, Soum province) was also attacked, resulting in the death of one soldier [3]. On September 12, a simultaneous attack on two military positions in Baraboulé and Nassoumbou (Sahel) killed two other soldiers. Finally, on September 16, 29 civilians died in two attacks on the Dablo-Delbo road (Sahel) and on the road between Barsalogho and Guendbila (North Central region) [4].

These last attacks took place at a crucial time, as the country was hosting on September 14th an Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism gathering the main West African leaders. This summit lead them to pledge to mobilize $1 billion to tackle terrorism in the region [5].

Attacks against State symbols

Most of the attacks which took place in 2019 were focused on targeting State symbols, rather than civilians : soldiers, border officers, police officers, local authorities, etc. By doing this, terrorists are trying to attract the sympathy of the local population, and to present themselves as defending the cause of a people neglected by its government, which is – allegedly – manipulated by western powers.

The national security and defence forces are powerless and unable to eradicate the terrorist threat

The lack of fundings, equipment, training and staff in the army and among the national security and defence forces is undeniable. As a result, they can not deal with the terrorist threat autonomously. As they are increasingly targeted by the attacks, they also become demoralised, demotivated and afraid, to the point that some of them refuse to patrol. On September 14, the police forces of Djibo (North, Soum province) deserted their posts and left the city to protest against the lack of appropriate equipment to fight against terrorism [6].

In response, the Burkinabe Ministry of Defense launched a new recruitment campaign, and planned to hire 500 new soldiers [7]. It remains to be seen whether they will receive an adequate initial training.


Author : Emilie MOUSSET, Junior Analyst


[1] The Conversation, « Comment s’explique la prolifération des groupes extrémistes au Burkina Faso ? », 05/09/2019

[2] RFI, « Burkina : 24 militaires tués dans une attaque d’envergure », 20/08/2019

[3] Jeune Afrique, « Attaque contre un détachement militaire dans le Nord », 31/08/2019

[4] Jeune Afrique, « Burkina Faso : au moins 29 morts dans deux attaques dans le Nord », 09/09/2019

[5] LAGNEAU Laurent, « Les dirigeants des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest adoptent un plan d’un milliard de dollars contre le terrorisme », 15/09/2019

[6] Le, « Djibo : la police plie bagages, la population s’interroge », 15/09/2019

[7] LAGNEAU Laurent, « Les forces armées du Burkina Faso vont lancer un recrutement exceptionnel », Zone militaire, 28/08/2019