How One of the Most Stable Nations in West Africa Descended Into Mayhem
Burkina Faso once looked like a success story for U.S. military aid. But now it’s contending with a growing insurgency, an unfolding humanitarian crisis — and a security force targeting civilians.
Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department issued a report implicating Kaboré’s government in a litany of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions and “crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national, racial and ethnic minorities.” Human Rights Watch documented more than 60 killings of civilians by armed Islamists between late 2017 and February 2019, but it uncovered more than double that number — 130 extrajudicial killings — by the Burkinabe security forces over that same period. Those executions and other abuses by government troops occurred in at least 19 separate incidents. This summer, Human Rights Watch reported that residents of the northern town Djibo frequently discovered corpses, around 180 in all, dumped along roadways, under bridges and in vacant lots, between November 2019 and June 2020. Locals said a majority were Fulani and that many were found bound, blindfolded and shot. There were no witnesses to the killings, but the locals who found the victims — sometimes relatives or acquaintances — overwhelmingly blamed government forces. “I have absolutely no doubt that atrocities, including extrajudicial executions by the dozens, have been perpetrated by members of the Burkinabe defense and security forces,” Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director, Corinne Dufka, said.