Burkina Faso: A Glimpse of Conflict-Torn Djibo

For lefaso.net, the Burkinabè journalist Tiga Cheick Sawadogo has written two vital pieces: one about his journey in a convoy from Namsiguia to Djibo, and one about the situation in Djibo. Both pieces also include videos. Since 2016, Djibo has been one of the most affected zones amid the wider insurgencies troubling Burkina Faso’s north and east.

Sawadogo calls the 36-kilometer journey “by far the most securitized” that he’s made – it included not only a convoy of trucks and a group of FDS (Burkinabè security forces), but also air support. The context was a “caravan of provisions” for Djibo organized by the “Action Group for Soum,” whose Facebook page is here (Soum is the province of which Djibo is the capital).* Sawadogo writes that traveling the Namsiguia-Djibo axis has become prohibitively dangerous for ordinary people, and notes that he and his fellow passengers counted at least six corpses along the route, in addition to numerous abandoned trucks. Sawadogo notes that under normal circumstances, it should take four hours to drive from Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to Djibo, but that the trip he was on took seven hours in total, and that on the Namsiguia-Djibo portion they stopped roughly every twenty minutes so that the security forces could perform reconnaissance. The caravan arrived to Djibo on 13 May.

Sawodogo includes a powerful quote from the Emir of Djibo:

It’s a very difficult period. For two years, we haven’t been able to go to Dori any more. For more than a year, we haven’t been able to go to Baraboulé any more. Soon it will also be a year that we can’t go to Ouahigouya. And now, it is the road from Ouaga, which allows us to resupply the town, that is cut off. Everything used to come from Ouaga. With this blockade, resupplying is becoming more difficult. Many have come under strain, their trucks and their buses were shot at.

Sawadogo notes that the convoy’s journey allowed other trucks, that had been stuck in Namsiguia, to join the convoy to Djibo, and that other trucks joined them on the return journey. But as Sawadogo sagely observers, the convoy was “a circumstantial gesture facing a structural problem.”

The two pieces give a vivid impression of a zone under siege. As Sawadogo suggests, the level of resources mounted to enable the trip from Namsiguia to Djibo appears as the exception to the rule – namely, extreme and its seems increasing difficulty for civilians and security personnel attempting to access the conflict zones. Closely related to that issue is the issue of relations between the security forces and local civilians, which are, to say the least, bad – Djibo was, on 9 April, the site of an alleged massacre of 31 civilians by the FDS. Sawadogo does not go into detail about how civilians reacted to the convoy, but describes “the curious gaze of villagers” who watched from the roadside as the convoy left Namsiguia. Friends, foes, or neither? The point, I think, is that the FDS cannot tell the difference.

*You can read a short interview with Hamadoun Dicko, coordinator of the Action Group for Soum, here (French). He discusses this same trip.