Thursday, 18.03.2021

Presentation of the study Pandora's box. Burkina Faso, self-defense militias and VDP Law in fighting jihadism

On Thursday 18 March 2021, the Peace and Security Competence Centre of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES PSCC) organised a virtual conference, due to COVID 19, to present the results of the study "A Pandora's Box. Burkina Faso, self-defence militias and the WTP law in the fight against jihadism" by Dr. Antonin TISSERON, associate researcher at the Thomas More Institute, France. This presentation of the study results by the author was attended by academics, researchers, representatives of defence and security forces, research institutes, international organisations, civil society organisations and women's organisations from Burkina Faso, France, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad.

Local security initiatives have a long history in West Africa. In Burkina Faso, they continue to be part of the political and security landscape after independence, driven by the state, local authorities or citizens. The recent period has seen a very strong expansion of local security initiatives, marked in particular by the multiplication of self-defence groups after the fall of President Blaise Compaoré in 2014 as a result of an increase in banditry and then attacks by jihadist groups on Burkinabe territory. The relationship between the Burkinabe state and these self-defence groups is a mixture of tolerance, pragmatism and attempts at supervision. Thus, the Burkinabe authorities have established a legal framework to regulate the actions of the Koglweogo by integrating them into a community police force. Collaboration was notable in several regions, particularly in the East, to secure the 2014-2015 political transition process. On 7 November 2019, following the attack on a mining convoy by jihadists, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré called for the mobilisation of civilian volunteers to support the state in the fight against jihadist groups. In January 2020, the deputies of the National Assembly unanimously adopted a law allowing the recruitment of "volunteers for the defence of the homeland" to help in the fight against jihadist groups, to support the armed forces or to protect localities where the defence and security forces are absent. However, the main risk is that of exacerbating inter-community violence, in a context of stigmatisation of certain communities, non-inclusiveness of the VDPs and the increasing circulation of weapons of war. On several occasions, the VDP have been accused of having been responsible for abuses against civilians. In the longer term, militias also have a destabilising potential to fuel crime and undermine state authority.

The study examines the militia phenomenon in Burkina Faso - militias being understood here as non-jihadist armed actors recognised or tolerated by the state - and the issues surrounding the operationalisation of the January 2020 law on volunteers for the defence of the homeland, as well as the diversity of local security dynamics in the country and in West Africa.

This virtual meeting moderated by Dr. Sampala BALIMA, International Expert on Defence and Security, Conflicts and Migration (Burkina Faso), aimed to present the results of the study to the various actors for greater appropriation and popularisation. The comments of the study's discussant, Professor Vincent Zakane, lecturer and researcher in public law/international law at the Training and Research Unit in Legal and Political Sciences (UFR/SJP) of the University of Ouaga II (Burkina Faso), as well as the debates and sharing of experiences, enabled the issues relating to the operationalisation of the January 2020 law on volunteers for the defence of the homeland to be clearly identified in Burkina Faso, and enriched the study's recommendations. The study is available in the publication section of the website.

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