05/03/2022 Burkina Faso (International Christian Concern) – Burkina Faso, which has been struggling against a rise in jihadism and violent attacks over the last several years, has announced that it will provide support to local communities engaged in reconciliation talks with jihadists. The government will also offer livelihood opportunities for militants willing to disarm.
The decision was announced the week of April 22 by the minister for social cohesion and national reconciliation, Yero Boly. It came amid growing calls for non-military approaches to a conflict that has displaced nearly two million people. He said that the shift in strategy would see logistical support and formal mandates given to community leaders engaged in talks with jihadists.
“The government continues to work against terrorism, but if there are these types of initiatives between [jihadists] who want to discuss with their community to come back [home], we have no reason to refuse,” said Boly in his first interview with international media since assuming the post in March.
Militants linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS began initiating violent attacks in Burkina Faso, mostly starting in 2015. The violence seen in Burkina Faso is part of a broader trend of jihadism that has displaced 2.3 million people across West Africa’s Sahel region. As a result, communities turned to dialogue as they lost faith in the government’s ability to manage the crisis militarily.
Boly said he wasn’t aware of any plans to kickstart national talks with jihadists. That idea has been opposed by previous administrations, though officials did broker a secret ceasefire with militants to facilitate elections in late 2020. France and other foreign powers with troops in the region have also opposed national talks.
However, Burkina Faso’s stance on the dialogue has softened since soldiers launched a coup in January. Junta leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba has called for a new strategy that blends military operations with dialogue.
Other states in West Africa are also taking similar approaches to stem the growing tide of domestic jihadism that has been steadily spreading across the region.
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