Burkina Faso: Stopping the Spiral of Violence

The deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso is extremely worrying. While authorities are gradually losing their control over certain rural areas, jihadist type insurgencies are spreading into them and could even, in the long term, turn the country into a corridor toward the coastal states to the south. The counter-insurgency struggle too often fuels local community-based violence; with inadequate state supervision, the volunteers or local security forces that it intends to mobilise could further aggravate this violence. While Burkina Faso is at a turning point in its history, most of its leaders are preoccupied with short-term politics and in particular the 2020 elections. Authorities are faced with a three-fold challenge: to pursue military efforts while limiting violence against civilians; to regain the trust of communities and redeploy the state in rural areas; and to adapt their responses to local contexts by combining prevention, crisis management and stabilisation measures. Reconciling short-, medium- and long-term actions and finding the right balance between the use of force and the protection of communities pose major challenges. To overcome them, authorities and international partners must rapidly adopt a new approach.