The World Today for June 30, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

BURKINA FASO

Who Matters?

Angelina Jolie recently visited war-ravaged Burkina Faso to bring attention to – and generate help for – the plight of people fleeing violence and struggling with displacement.

“The humanitarian crisis in the Sahel seems to me to be totally neglected. It is treated as being of little geopolitical importance,” the Hollywood actress and Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the Associated Press. “There’s a bias in the way we think about which countries and which people matter.”

As the CIA World Factbook explained, Burkina Faso had already endured coups and instability since independence from France in 1960. The reelection of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in 2020 signaled a hoped-for transition to peace and prosperity.

Instead, Burkina Faso’s military has continued to fight Al Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated insurgents as they have for more than five years. The fight has claimed 4,000 lives and displaced more than 1 million people. Another 22,000 refugees, mostly Malians, are also in the landlocked West African country.

Recently, the country’s forces killed 11 jihadists and found explosives, arms, communications equipment and other supplies, the Defense Post reported. That attack was in response to jihadists killing at least 160 people in the northern village of Solhan a few days before, the worst such incident in years, wrote the BBC. Victims said the “barbaric” attackers burned homes and the local market.

“They executed them, purely and simply, and then burned the market, houses and shops, and the vehicles, lorries and transport parked outside,” said Catholic Bishop Laurent Dabire, according to Crux.

As National Public Radio explained, the village was in the Sahel region on the edge of the Sahara Desert where Islamic militants have taken refuge when not rampaging through Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. The region is also a hub of human trafficking between Africa and Europe.

American, European and French forces have been stationed in the country for years to help local forces quash the Islamist insurgency. But Al Jazeera concluded that the Solhan attack illustrated how the military alliance’s campaign has failed to achieve its objective while innocent civilians pay the price.

Sound like Iraq? Afghanistan? Some analysts say so. And now, like those two countries, thousands of troops – here, French troops – are now slated to leave under a realignment of forces that French President Emmanuel Macron announced recently. Locals are not rejoicing. As Deutsche Welle explained, critics said they were leaving Burkina Faso vulnerable.

That could be true. But it certainly will take more than bullets and bombs to fix Burkina Faso.

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