BURKINA FASO 2020
Armed groups committed human rights abuses, including killings and abductions, in the context of the armed conflict. Security forces also perpetrated extrajudicial executions and torture. Impunity remained pervasive. The right to education was hindered. Freedoms of expression and assembly were restricted.
The armed conflict continued, particularly in the northern and eastern regions. In January, the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland Act was passed which allowed for the recruitment of local “volunteers” to support military operations.
Seven of the 13 regions remained under a state of emergency, giving the authorities extensive powers to arrest and detain people and limit their movements.
In March, a national curfew was imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. The government also released 1,207 prisoners to reduce prison overcrowding and mitigate the risk of infection.
In September, the Electoral Code was amended ahead of the presidential elections and stipulated that where polling stations were closed for exceptional security reasons, election results would be based on votes cast in stations which remained open. In November, President Kaboré was re-elected for a second term.
Abuses by armed groups
There were regular clashes between armed groups, and attacks against civilians were committed, often along ethnic lines, which could amount to war crimes.
Since the beginning of the year, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) had blockaded the city of Djibo, in Soum province, Centre-North region, restricting access and peoples’ movement along a 37km stretch.
In March, the Koglweogo, an armed “self-defence” group, raided three villages in the Barga department in the Northern region, killing at least 43 inhabitants and destroying buildings. In the same month, at least 10 civilians were taken from a mosque in Cissé village in the Sahel region and killed by unidentified gunmen, according to media reports.
In May and August, at least 45 people were killed when unidentified assailants fired indiscriminately at cattle markets in Kompienbiga town and Namoungou village in the Eastern region.
In July, the Mayor of Pensa and 10 others were killed following an ambush on their convoy between the towns of Barsalogho and Pensa in the Centre-North region, believed to be carried out by GSIM members. One month later, El Hadj Souhaib Cissé, the leader of the Islamic community of Soum province, was abducted by gunmen while travelling to his home in Djibo. His body was found four days later on the outskirts of the city.
Right to education
The right to education was severely undermined as a result of armed attacks by GSIM and Islamic State of Greater Sahara members against primary and secondary schools; students and teachers were also frequently threatened with violence. The Ministry of Education said that 222 education workers had been “the victims of terrorist attacks” between January and April. According to UNICEF, around 3,000 schools were closed by April due to the security situation.
On 9 April in Djibo, 31 people were arrested and executed by members of the special unit force during a raid. Although the government announced an investigation into the killings, which could amount to war crimes, no further information on the investigation was made public.
Torture and other ill-treatment
On 11 May, gendarmes, accompanied by volunteers, arrested and detained at least 25 people at a market in Kpentchangou town in the Eastern region. The next morning, 12 of them were found dead in their cells at the Tanwalbougou gendarmerie post. The gendarmerie denied responsibility, but the survivors, who were released in June, said that the 12 men had died as a result of severe beatings by the gendarmes. The authorities said they would investigate the incident but no public information was available at the end of the year on the investigation.
According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the incidence of gender-based violence, including rape, early and forced marriage and prostitution, other sexual abuse and exploitation, was exacerbated by the conflict. Victims of such violence faced difficulty in getting help as sexual and reproductive health care services were either in short supply or were disrupted by the conflict.
Refugees and internally displaced people
By August, according to UNHCR, 1 million people had been internally displaced by the conflict. Internally displaced people (IDP) and refugee camps were the targets of attacks by all parties to the conflict.
In May, army officers beat 32 refugees in the Mentao refugee camp in the Sahel region, while searching for perpetrators of an attack against them that day in which a soldier was killed. UNHCR called on the authorities to investigate the incident, but they responded by saying the camp hosted gunmen.
In October, 25 IDPs were killed in an ambush by an armed group near the town of Pissila, in the Central North region. Survivors said the assailants executed the men after separating them from the women and children, who they later released.
Right to truth, justice and reparation
In February, El Hadj Boureima Nadbanka, commander of the Koglweogo in Namentenga province, Central North region, was provisionally released by the High Court of Kaya. He had been arrested in December 2019 in connection with an investigation into the unlawful killings of 50 people and the enforced disappearance of 66 others in the village of Yirgou, in Sanmatenga province, in January 2019. No significant progress had been made in the proceedings against him at the end of the year.
Freedoms of expression and assembly
In January, a car belonging to Yacouba Ladji Bama, an investigative journalist and editor of the Courrier Confidentiel, was set alight outside his home. Journalists’ unions said the attack was intended to intimidate him for his work uncovering corruption and fraud.
In the same month, the Ouagadougou City Council arbitrarily banned a sit-in outside the Ouagadougou Court, organized by the Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities (CISC). The CISC were protesting at the authorities’ failure to secure justice for the 50 people killed by the Koglweogo in Yirgou in January 2019 (see above, Right to truth, justice and reparation).
In August, the authorities stopped a demonstration by supporters of deposed President Compaoré, refusing them access to the People’s House venue in Ouagadougou, without providing an official reason.
Right to health
In March, the National Union of Human and Animal Health Workers (SYNTSHA) raised concerns about the country’s preparedness to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and called for greater protection for front-line health workers. SYNTSHA regularly denounced the lack of infrastructure investment and the government’s failure to respect the 2017 agreement which had aimed to improve health workers’ employment conditions.