Demand for ‘government of fighters’ in troubled Burkina as PM quits
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore faced demands Thursday for tougher action against Burkina Faso’s jihadist insurgency, a day after the crisis claimed the political scalp of the prime minister.
Seeking to defuse anger over a bloody six-year-old campaign that has claimed around 2,000 lives and forced 1.4 million from their homes, Kabore on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire.
The move also triggered the departure of Dabire’s government — under Burkinabe law, the resignation of the prime minister also requires the entire cabinet government to step down.
“A new prime minister and a government who are fighters have to be found — and as quickly as possible,” the state newspaper Sidwaya demanded.
“The country does not need a time of drift, with stop-gap ministers just dealing with day-to-day business,” said Issouf Sawadogo, a senior member of a coalition of civil society groups.
“We are at war, and we need a fighting government to take the situation back in hand,” he said, calling for the new prime minister to be named “within 24 hours”.
Dabire’s government was “overwhelmed by the wave of discontent by people outraged at having to mourn the daily killings of soldiers and civilians”, said the online newspaper Wakat Sera.
Dabire, appointed in 2018, had been tasked with stemming the bloodshed, which began when groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group started launching attacks from neighbouring Mali three years earlier.
But the country’s poorly equipped security forces have struggled against a ruthless and highly mobile foe.
Discontent rose after a string of massacres this year.
At least 13 Burkina Faso defence volunteers were killed in an attack in the north of the country on Thursday, security sources told AFP.
The peak of the deadly violence came on November 14 when 57 people, 53 of them gendarmes, were killed in the country’s north.
Two weeks before they were attacked, the gendarmes had warned headquarters that they were running short of supplies and were having to trap animals to eat.
They had been waiting in vain for several days for a relief force when they came under attack from hundreds of fighters on pickups and motorcycles, according to accounts of the battle.
Late Thursday, the armies of Burkina Faso and neighbouring Niger said they had killed around 100 “terrorists” in a joint military operation against the jihadists on the border between November 25 and December 9.
They had also dismantled two bases, one on either side of the frontier, they said in a joint statement.
On November 27, 10 people were hurt, including a child and two journalists, when police used teargas to disperse a protest rally in the capital Ouagadougou.
Signalling an impending reshuffle, Kabore said it was time for “a tighter, closer team” in government.
Other voices in Burkina have cautioned against taking a purely militaristic line for tackling the insurgency.
Jacques Nanema, a professor of philosophy at the University of Ouagadougou, called for a government that addresses “poverty, which poverty and violence feed on”.
“The war against terrorism, the fight against hunger and poverty, the struggle for inclusive development that should not leave any region behind is everyone’s concern, not just that of the ruling party,” said the daily Wakat Sera.
Kabore was first elected in 2015, a year after his predecessor Blaise Compaore, who seized power in 1987, was forced out by mass protests for seeking to change the constitution in order to remain in office.