In the past years, violence and instability have rapidly increased in the West African Region. Burkina Faso, previously a long-term beacon of stability and social cohesion in the region, is facing escalating conflict especially in the border areas towards Niger and Mali, yet also – still scattered – at its Benin border. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) found that since 2016, the number of violent attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has grown five-fold, leaving in its wake more than 4,000 casualties. Current hotspots of violence are the regions Mopti (Mali) and Sahel (Burkina Faso), who each saw above 500 conflict-related casualties in 2019.
Several militant groups are challenging the states’ authority in an area that is difficult to control. Most of the groups uphold radical Islamic fundamentalism and seek to exploit latent conflicts among the populations’ different ethnicities. A lack of both basic services and public infrastructure make it easier for militant groups to fill the vacuum and terrorise the local population which often lacks any means of protection.
Structural challenges faced by the population nourish the emergence and growth of militant groups. Factors such as resource scarcity, widespread poverty, weak governance and ineffective decentralisation, as well as growing numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) and the prevailing of ethnic identities over a sense of common nationality all contribute to the complex dynamics of a conflict that is rapidly becoming more brutal.
In view of this dramatic situation, the project sectors covered by the PATRIP Foundation seek to address communities’ peace and security needs in a meaningful way. PATRIP-financed projects in West Africa are largely multi-sectoral as well as highly participatory in nature and center on cross-border promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution, legitimate governance and social cohesion. They involve as many relevant stakeholders of a community as possible, in order to identify most pressing needs and provide vital infrastructure such as housing and community halls. Many of the projects have a focus on particularly improving the perspectives of youth, as this group remains a primary target for recruitment by radical groups.