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 5,000 casualties. Current hotspots of violence are the regions Mopti (Mali) and Sahel (Burkina Faso), who each saw above 3500 conflict-related casualties between september 2019 and september 2020.
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.