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Friday, October 07, 2022

Hundreds missing in Burkina Faso amid extremist violence

Polenelli Combari last spoke to her son on the phone, asking God to bless him. After a while, she called back, but Rekha was dead.

His 34-year-old son was returning a truck used to carry the family’s belongings from his village in eastern Burkina Faso when jihadists forced everyone to leave. He went missing in March.

“We’ll keep searching. … I’m just praying to God to get her back,” said Combari, 53, sitting in despair in the eastern town of Fada N’Gorma where she now lives.

Islamic extremist violence is ravaging Burkina Faso, killing thousands and displacing more than a million.

And people are going missing. Reports of missing relatives quadrupled from 104 to 407 between 2019 and 2020, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which defines a missing person as someone whose whereabouts cannot be accounted for. State intervention is required.

“With conflict, you have a sudden movement of people. You have more incidents that can lead to isolation and disappearances,” said Marina Fakhuri, chief of security with the ICRC in Burkina Faso. “Certainly, we are also concerned with the number of families that are coming directly to us to indicate that they have a missing relative and are in need of support.”

FILE – Children displaced by the attacks gather at a makeshift camp for the displaced in Yuba, Yatenga province in Burkina Faso on April 20, 2020.

He said people have previously gone missing in the West African country due to migration, floods or aftershocks of climate change, but the number has risen because of violence.

Locating people during conflict and in the context of large-scale displacement is challenging, can create tension within families and communities, and psychological and physical distress. A month after their son went missing, Combury’s husband died of a heart attack caused by shock, she said.

While some families blame jihadists for the disappearance of their loved ones, many others point to security forces as the main culprits. During a visit to Fada N’Gorma in October and speaking by phone to people in the Sahel province, the three families, including Combari, told the Associated Press they suspected the military was responsible for their missing relatives.

The military has been accused of non-judicial killings by rights groups and targeting people linked to jihadists. About 70% of families who report people missing allege it is linked to security forces, said Dauda Diallo, executive secretary of Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities, a civil society group.

Diallo said there has been a drop in military-related cases since late last year, which Diallo attributed to a Human Rights Watch report that accused the military of involvement in the mass killings. But now the abuses are being perpetrated by volunteer fighters, citizens armed by the state, he said.

FILE - Two soldiers enter the Catholic Church at the 10th RCAS Army Barracks in Kaya, Burkina Faso, April 10, 2021.  The West African nation is embroiled in unprecedented violence.

FILE – Two soldiers enter the Catholic Church at the 10th RCAS Army Barracks in Kaya, Burkina Faso, April 10, 2021. The West African nation is embroiled in unprecedented violence.

“It is sad to see that violence has been subcontracted to armed civilians or militias,” Diallo said.

The Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Conflict analysts say Burkina Faso’s escalating violence undermines impunity among security forces, and that kidnappings and killings highlight the absence of the rule of law.

“A significant proportion of the violence is attributed to either jihadist groups or ‘unknown armed men’, making it easy to absolve some parties of responsibility. It is easy to kill people or make them disappear, but there is nowhere to protect them.” more difficult,” he said. Heni Nasaibiya, senior researcher for the Armed Conflict Location and Incident Data Project.

Families looking for relatives who believe they were taken by state agents say they do not know where to turn. He said Hamadou Diallo’s nephew was allegedly arrested by the military in 2019 outside the city of Dori in the Sahel province. Unaware of any organization that could help other than the military, Diallo sets off to search.

“Nobody had the guts to approach (Army),” he said. “After a week or two, if you don’t see a family member, it means[they’re]dead.”

Human rights groups say the government is obliged to investigate all disappearances, hold people accountable and use the judiciary and the National Human Rights Commission, said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

“Both institutions need to redouble their efforts on behalf of families whose loved ones went missing at the hands of state security forces or armed Islamists. They have a right to truth and justice,” he said.

But when families with missing relatives search for answers, they remain in limbo.

He said Fidale Auli had not seen his 33-year-old brother since his disappearance a year and a half ago. Auli, a farmer and father of five children, said he was close to his brother, but as time goes on, he is finding it difficult to remember.

“All my memories have been erased,” said Auli. Holding on to his brother’s birth certificate, which he keeps everywhere, Ouilli says that he is completely ready to give up and hang on to the hope that one day he can see his brother again.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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