According to news reports, hundreds of people are currently missing as a result of violence in Burkina Faso.
FADA N’GOURMA Burkina Faso — When Polenli Combary last spoke to her son on phone, she prayed for God’s blessings. She called back shortly after that, but the line was dead.
After the jihadis forced all to flee, her 34-year old son was returning a truck that had been used to transport their belongings from eastern Burkina Faso. In March, he disappeared.
“We will keep searching … I’m just praying to God to have him back,” said Combary, 53, sitting despondently in the eastern city of Fada N’Gourma, here current place of residence.
Burkina Faso is being ravaged by Islamic extremist violence, resulting in the deaths of thousands and displacement of more than 1,000,000 people.
People are also going missing due to the rice of violence in Burkina Faso. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICCR), reports of missing relatives quadrupled between 2019 and 2020 from 104 and 407, and required state intervention.
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Marina Fakhouri (ICRC Burkina Faso head of protection) said, “With the conflict, you have more sudden movements of people, you have more incidents which can lead to separation and disappearance”
“Certainly, we are also concerned by the increasing number of families coming to us directly to report that a relative is missing and they need our support.” She added.
She said that people have gone missing in West Africa before due to floods, migrations, or shocks from climate change. But the scale of the violence has made it more severe.
It is difficult to trace people in conflict situations and when there has been mass displacement. This can lead to tensions between families and communities, as well as psychological and physical distress. Combary’s said that her husband, who had suffered a heart attack from the shock one month prior to her son’s disappearance, died as a result of that.
Whilst some families believe the jihadis are responsible for their loved ones’ disappearances, others also blame the military. My question is, when is this violence in Burkina Faso going to end?
Rights groups have accused the military of extrajudicial killings and targeting those deemed to be affiliated with the jihadis. According to Daouda Diallo (executive secretary of the Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities), about 70% of missing persons’ families claim it is connected to the security forces.
Since the end of last, there has been a decrease in reported cases associated with the military. Diallo credits this to a report from Human Rights Watch, which accused the army of mass killings. He said that now, the abuses are being perpetrated by volunteers fighters, civilians arming by the state.
Diallo stated, “It is sad to see that the violence has been subcontracted to armed civilians or militia in the field,”
The ministry of defense didn’t respond to our requests for comment.
An increase in violence in Burkina Faso fuels impunity among security forces. The abductions, killings, and other acts of violence highlight the absence or rule of law, according to conflict analysts.
“A significant proportion of the violence is attributed either to jihadist groups or ‘unidentified armed men’ making it easy to absolve certain parties of responsibility. It’s easy to kill people or make them disappear, but much more difficult to protect them,” stated Heni Nsaibia (senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project).
Families in search of relatives who they suspect were taken by the state say they don’t know how to find them. He claimed that Hamadou Diallo’s nephew, Hamadou Diallo, was allegedly taken by the army in 2019 outside Dori town in Sahel province. Diallo gave up looking for any other organization that could assist the military as he was unaware of them.
He said, “Nobody had the courage to approach (the army),” “After one or two weeks if you don’t see a family member, that means (they’re dead).”
Rights groups claim that the government must investigate disappearances, hold those responsible, and use the judiciary as well as the national human rights commission. Corinne Dufka is the director of Human Rights Watch West Africa.
“Both institutions need to redouble their efforts on behalf of families whose loved ones went missing at the hands of state security forces or armed Islamists. They have a right to the truth and to justice,” she said.
Families with missing relatives are still searching for answers. They live in uncertainty.
Fidele Ouali said that he hasn’t seen his 33-year-old Brother since he disappeared over a year ago. Ouali, a farmer and father to five children, said that he was close with his brother but it’s becoming harder for him to recall him.
Ouali said, “All my memories are wiped out,” said Ouali. Ouali, who clutches his brother’s birth record which he carries around everywhere, said that he is torn between giving it up completely and holding on to the hope of seeing his brother again one day.
This is developing news. More details pertaining to the current situation about the violence in Burkina Faso will be communicated as soon as possible.