Germany seeks to address extremism in Burkina Faso

Germany seeks to address extremism in Burkina Faso

Germany seeks to address extremism in Burkina Faso

During her trip to Burkina Faso, German Development Minister Svenja Schulze aims to demonstrate her openness to engaging in dialogue with the ruling military junta. In Benin, she will back Germany’s endeavors to strengthen trust in state structures.

Adama Sawadogo, a resident of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, will always remember the last weekend in February. “It was a difficult situation. There were simultaneous attacks across the country targeting both churches and mosques,” shared Sawadogo, who dedicates his time to assisting displaced individuals in Burkina Faso.

During Sunday Mass in the village of Essakane, northeastern Burkina Faso, 15 individuals lost their lives, as reported by the Catholic diocese of Dori. Additionally, the Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina Faso stated that 14 worshippers, including an imam, were killed in a mosque in Natiaboani, located in the eastern part of the country.

These recent attacks mark a significant escalation in violence in Burkina Faso, a Sahel country with a population of 22 million, where terrorist activities have been on the rise since 2016.

Burkina Faso is the initial destination on a journey through the region for German Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze on Monday. Germany is currently leading the Sahel Alliance, an important development organization. As per a representative from the Development Ministry, the alliance is presently putting in approximately €28 million ($30 million) in the region.

” Germany and Europe seek to cultivate positive and amicable relationships with West African nations. This can only happen through dedication and respectful, practical approaches. It all begins with acknowledging the issues and addressing them seriously,” the spokesperson shared with The Diplomat News.

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Terrorism, ECOWAS exit on the agenda

Germany seeks to address extremism in Burkina Faso

Terrorism remains a pressing issue in Burkina Faso, with the UNHCR reporting that approximately 2 million people were displaced in March 2023. The impact of terrorism is evident, as data from the World Bank indicates that over 40% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2020. Additionally, UNICEF figures reveal that nearly 3.4 million individuals no longer have access to healthcare.

Despite these challenges, Sawadogo, a local resident, believes that the recent attacks aimed to showcase the terrorists’ strength. However, he confidently asserts that they are ultimately weak. As the security situation improves due to the intervention of the army, some displaced individuals have started returning to their villages. Sawadogo expresses faith in the bravery of those defending the nation and believes that terrorism will eventually cease in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso has experienced military rule since two coups took place in 2022, with Captain Ibrahim Traore leading the country. In late January, Burkina Faso, along with Mali and Niger, announced their decision to withdraw from ECOWAS. This matter is expected to be discussed during Schulze’s visit.

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Growing Trend of Extremism in the Region

Human rights groups have expressed concern over the growing trend of regional extremism. Ilaria Allegrozzi, a senior Sahel researcher for Human Rights Watch, has condemned the Burkinabe authorities for resorting to harsh tactics to suppress critics and opponents. Allegrozzi’s investigations have revealed the disappearance of six opposition members and activists since late November.

Additionally, Burkina Faso implemented mandatory military service last year, allowing authorities to compel adults into army service. Schulze, after her visit to Burkina Faso, will proceed to the northern border region of Benin, a country with 13 million residents that has also witnessed a rise in terrorist attacks in recent years.

The Hague-based international think tank, the Clingendael Institute, has highlighted the support for the JNIM group, linked to al-Qaeda, among the people of Benin. This group, originating in Mali, spreads religious messages in mosques that discourage the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and pork.

Kamal Donko, a research assistant specializing in social sciences at the LASDEL Institute in Parakou, northern Benin, has observed that young people in the country are receptive to such messages. He told The Diplomat News that government policies often influence poverty, unemployment, and dissatisfaction in rural areas, contributing to the radicalization of young individuals.

Donko also suggests that the frustration felt by the younger generation towards the older elites and France, the former colonial power, could spill over from the Sahel region into coastal states like Benin. He mentions that young people in border regions might be inspired to emulate the ongoing anti-government protests happening elsewhere. Germany’s Development Ministry is actively collaborating with Benin to enhance its state structures, according to reports.

Combat migration and extremism through job training initiatives

Germany seeks to address extremism in Burkina Faso

In the town of Dogbo in southwestern Benin, Jules Tohountode is making a difference through vocational training as the president of Education Services International.

At the NGO’s training center, young people have the opportunity to enroll in various courses and acquire skills in fields like car mechanics, baking, and welding. Tohountode firmly believes in the benefits of vocational training. He points out that many individuals with academic qualifications and diplomas struggle to find employment either in the public sector or private companies.

On the flip side, established companies or self-employment await well-trained tradespeople, who are in high demand for their skills. Tohountode emphasizes that companies actively seek out skilled craftsmen, often offering permanent contracts and contributing to the tax system. Currently, the majority of workers operate in the informal sector. However, Tohountode also highlights the social impact of vocational training. A paid and fulfilling job acts as a deterrent to migration from rural areas to cities, thereby strengthening rural communities. He further emphasizes that this also plays a role in countering terrorism. When individuals are gainfully employed, it serves as a barrier against joining extremist groups.

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