According to the World Bank, Burkina Faso’s population stood at 19.19 million in 2017, with a fertility rate of 5.35 children per woman and a population growth rate of 2.9% per year.
Burkina Faso comprises 66 different ethnic groups. The M’bororo Fulani and the Tuareg are two of the peoples considered Indigenous. They live spread throughout the country but are particularly concentrated in the north, Seno, Soum, Yagha and Oudalan regions; they are often geographically isolated, living in dry areas, economically marginalised and the victims of human rights violations.
According to the 2006 official census, Burkina Faso’s population is 60.5% Muslim, 19% Catholic, 15.3% animist and 4.2% Protestant.
Burkina Faso’s Constitution does not recognise the existence of Indigenous Peoples, but it does guarantee education and health care for all. A lack of resources and appropriate infrastructure, however, means that, in practice, nomadic peoples enjoy only limited access to these rights.
Burkina Faso voted for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 1
Political situation in 2018
In the war on jihadi terrorism in the Sahel, being conducted by Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, Burkina Faso now seems to be the weakest link because of its inability to repel the terrorist attacks. There has been a surge in terrorist attacks since January 2018, with more than 240 deaths since 2015, according to an official tally issued in mid-October.
In recent months, Burkina Faso – which borders both Mali and Niger – has seen a new “front” emerge in the east although responsibility has not always been claimed for attacks on the local security forces. The north of the country continues to suffer: Prefects have been murdered, expatriates kidnapped, teachers threatened and judges have fled, all signs of a retreating state that is unable to provide security in the north of the country.
There is a growing feeling of insecurity among the population as well as a sense of impatience. The country was listed 183rd out of 187 on the Human Development Index published by the United Nations in September 2018.2
Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council
On 12 May 2018, the situation of Burkina Faso’s minority and Indigenous Peoples was considered by the Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The compilation of the Burkina Faso report3 from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states:
74. The Committee [on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] is concerned that certain groups, including nomads, migrants and people living in rural areas, may not be sufficiently taken into account in the development programmes and policies drawn up by the State party. The Committee recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to avoid [their] marginalization.4
75. The Committee is concerned by the communitarian and sometimes ethnic dimension of these conflicts, especially those involving the Fulani people.5 [The Human Rights Council called on Burkina Faso] to reduce tensions between pastoralists and farmers, including by taking into consideration the root causes of the conflicts, such as the increased competition for land and land-tenure insecurity.6 [It noted] with concern reports that the Fulani community [had] been regularly targeted by vigilante groups. [The Committee welcomed the] establishment in 2015 of the National Observatory for the Prevention and Management of Community Conflicts.7
Future for pastoralism
The Platform of Action for Pastoral Household Security (Plateforme d’action pour la sécurisation des ménages pastoraux/PASMEP) published a report on 20 August 2018. The coordinator of civil society organisations for the promotion and defence of pastoralism, René Millogo, presented the report entitled: “Pastoralism in Burkina: a truly problematic future for this sector”. In an interview broadcast by Faso.net, he stated:
We have seen that national policies do not take sufficient (and I mean sufficient) account of these target groups and the underlying issues even though it is a highly viable economic activity for our country’s development. We therefore think that more work needs to be done at all levels to take better account of the pastoral communities and their contributions to social and economic development.8
A UNOWAS (UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel) report was published on 16 October 2018 under the title of: Pastoralism and Security in West Africa and the Sahel: Towards Peaceful Coexistence.9 The introduction summarises the situation of nomadic herders. In recent years, conflicts involving herders have increased:
West Africa and the Sahel is [sic] experiencing a surge in violent conflicts between pastoralists and farmers. These conflicts are primarily driven by competition for lands, water and forage, but there are also political and socio-economic factors involved, as the main issue is about how these essential natural resources are managed and allocated. […] Pastoralists are both victims and actors, which can be between pastoralist groups themselves or between pastoralists and farmers. […] [The causes and drivers of pastoral-related conflicts are:] 1) growing demographic and ecological pressures [which] are regional phenomena; 2) the area of land under cultivation has dramatically increased over time, while available grazing land has decreased. This is partly because pastoralists rarely own land on an individual or collective basis but instead rely on access to pasture and water as common resources, in agreement with local communities.10
Terrorism and self-defence groups
In the north of Burkina Faso, since 2017, jihadists have been attacking schools, particularly in the border area with Mali and Niger. They have killed a head teacher, teachers, pupils and burned down several schools. These attacks have thus far led to the closure of 216 educational establishments affecting 24,000 pupils and 895 teachers.11
The Koglweogo, or “guardians of the forest” in the Mooré language, were set up in 2014 in the context of the social and political crisis, out of a desire to fight “institutionalised insecurity”. A self-defence movement, they are the result of a popular initiative that has now spread throughout virtually the whole country, with the exception of the Grand Ouest and Cascades regions.
The violent and ritualised practices of the Koglweogo groups are now common in many areas. In rural zones, where there were previous problems of insecurity, different testimonies seem to suggest that the presence of Koglweogo has improved the situation, increasing security. However, because of the “vigilante-style hunts” they carry out, and the inclusion of former criminals in their ranks, the Koglweogo movement has received a mixed welcome from society. The proliferation of these self-defence groups also feeds more latent conflicts. With presidential elections on the horizon in 2020 the issue of the integration of these armed groups back into the democratic process remains critical to ensure stability and peaceful governance.12
Notes and references
1. Issa Diallo. IWGIA. The Indigenous World, 2017 at http://gitpa.org/web/ BURKINA%20FASO%20FINAL%20%20.pdf
2. Le Bilan du Monde 2018. Le Monde, Sophie Douce
3. See UNHRC A/HRC/WG.6/30/BFA/2, Compilation on Burkina Faso Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/burkina_faso/ session_30_-_may_2018/a_hrc_wg.6_30_bfa_2_e.pdf
4. Ibidem, referencing CERD/C/BFA/CO/12-19, para. 12.
5. Ibidem, para. 15. See also: CCPR/C/BFA/CO/1, paras. 41–42.
6. Op. cit. UNHRC referencing CCPR/C/BFA/CO/1, para. 42.
7. Op. cit. UNHRC A/HRC/WG.6/30/BFA/2
8. PASMEP Report: Interview with René Millogo. https://lefaso.net/spip. php?article85052
9. UNOWAS Report, “Pastoralism and Security in West Africa and the Sahel: Towards Peaceful Coexistence” (Pastoralisme et sécurité en afrique de l’ouest et au sahel) at https://unowas.unmissions.org/fr/pastoralisme-et-s%C3%A9curit%C3%A9-en-afrique-de-l%E2%80%99ouest-et-au-sahel
11. Interview with Oumarou Traoré, Inspector at the Ministry of National Education, technical advisor to the Asmae Association. La Croix, 1 June 2018
12. Dupuy, Romane and Tanguy Quidelleur. 2018. “Mouvement D’Autodéfense Au Burkina Faso: Diffusion Et Structuration Des Groupes Koglweogo Noria”. NORIA Network of Researchers in International Affairs. See https://www.noria-research.com/fr/mouvement-dautodefense-au-burkina-faso-diffusion- et-structuration-des-groupes-koglweogo/Issa Diallo is senior research fellow at the National Center for Scientific and Technological Research in Ouagadougou. He is also president of the Association for the Protection of Rights and Promotion of Cultural Diversities of Minority Groups (ADCPM), officially recognised by the Government of Burkina Faso since 2005. ADCPM’s objective is to promote human and cultural rights, especially for people from minority groups.
Issa Diallo is senior research fellow at the National Center for Scientific and Technological Research in Ouagadougou. He is also president of the Association for the Protection of Rights and Promotion of Cultural Diversities of Minority Groups (ADCPM), officially recognised by the Government of Burkina Faso since 2005. ADCPM’s objective is to promote human and cultural rights, especially for people from minority groups.
This article is part of the 34th edition of the The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced. Find The Indigenous World 2020 in full here