Wonk Read: Preventing Violent Extremism in Burkina Faso

by ptinti


From dirt roads to ivory towers, semi-regular reviews of academic papers, reports, and manuscripts that come across my desk about the people, places, and topics I cover on Beacon and elsewhere.

The Global Center on Cooperative Security recently published a report titled,Preventing Violent Extremism in Burkina Faso: Toward National Resilience Amid Regional Insecurity.

Supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and co-authored by Augustin Loada (Executive Director of the Ouagadougou-based Centre pour la Gouvernance Democratique) and Peter Romaniuk (Senior Fellow at the Global Center in New York), the report assesses the threat of violent extremism in Burkina Faso. It also surveys the sources of resilience to violent extremism.

This report is a timely analysis, as Burkina Faso is increasingly considered – rightly or wrongly – a pillar of stability within a region rocked by instability. Two of Burkina Faso’s neighbors, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, descended into chaos in recent years and the specter of instability looms large over another neighbor, Niger. In nearby Nigeria, a full-fledged Islamist insurgency, and a haphazard government effort to quell it, has pushed the northern half of the country to the brink of full-scale civil war.

So many of these threats to stability are transnational in nature. Armed Islamist movements such as Boko Haram and its offshoot, Ansaru, operate in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and there is mounting evidence that they have collaborated with like-minded groups further abroad. Al-Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and similar groups such as Mujao and Al-Murabitoun, operate in several states across the Sahara and Sahel. Transnational organized criminal networks, which are often intertwined with the groups described above, facilitate the flow of arms, narcotics and people in a multitude of directions throughout the region.

Despite inflows of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring states and the aforementioned groups that pass through Burkina’s territory, Burkina Faso has managed come away from regional turmoil relatively unscathed, and in doing so, successfully sold itself as a vital and reliable security partner for the United States and France.

In my own conversations with U.S. diplomatic and defense officials, Burkina Faso’s stability is regularly cited as a reason behind Washington’s decision to fly surveillance aircraft, including unarmed drones and turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft, out of Burkina Faso. Eager to increase its intelligence gathering capabilities in the region, the U.S. had been searching for locations within West Africa from where surveillance aircraft could be flown. Several of the locations under consideration were ultimately scrapped either due to concerns over security and instability in the prospective host country, or because local governments decided that hosting U.S. surveillance aircraft would be too sensitive politically.

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