Burk­ina at­tacks – an un­ac­cept­able dis­trac­tion

CityPress - - Voices - Moumina Chériff Sy voices@ city­press. co. za

Like most of my coun­try­men and women, I was ap­palled and sad­dened by the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Oua­gadougou, Burk­ina Faso, on Jan­uary 15. Our coun­try was pre­vi­ously spared from such bar­baric ji­hadist vi­o­lence, which has be­come a fre­quent oc­cur­rence around the globe. I am deeply con­cerned by the mo­tives be­hind th­ese un­prece­dented acts of cow­ardice, which aimed not only to de­stroy lives but to desta­bilise our coun­try.

Cu­ri­ously, the events started on the night of Thurs­day, Jan­uary 14, when armed men kid­napped an Aus­tralian cou­ple in Djibo, north­ern Burk­ina Faso. Oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans Dr Ken El­liot and wife Jo­ce­lyn had moved there in 1972 and founded a med­i­cal clinic that treated thou­sands of Burk­in­abe in the Sa­hel, our coun­try’s poor­est re­gion. The next morn­ing, gun­men at­tacked a gen­darme post near the Malian bor­der, killing two.

We had hardly started pro­cess­ing th­ese in­ci­dents when on Fri­day evening the real ter­ror be­gan. Three baby-faced ji­hadists opened fire on the Cap­puc­cino Café and Splen­did Ho­tel, at the heart of our cap­i­tal Oua­gadougou, killing 31 and in­jur­ing dozens more.

As soon as I heard the news, I went di­rectly to the site. I felt it was im­por­tant to be on the ground to phys­i­cally sup­port our troops, who tracked the ter­ror­ists for 18 hours. Ev­ery­one knows the rest of the story. The at­tack­ers opened fire on ev­ery­thing that moved. Wit­nesses said they killed in cold blood, with­out claim­ing any political goals, as is of­ten the case else­where.

Con­sid­er­ing how lit­tle the gun­men val­ued hu­man life, the only ide­ol­ogy they ap­pear to de­fend is their ha­tred of life it­self. They cer­tainly do not have any religious les­son to give us here in Burk­ina Faso; it is be­cause we are such strong be­liev­ers in God that we have been able to over­come all our political strug­gles th­ese past few years, in an in­cred­i­ble dis­play of pop­u­lar mo­bil­i­sa­tion.

Af­ter the in­sur­rec­tion of Oc­to­ber 2014 and the heroic re­sis­tance of our peo­ple against the failed coup d’état in Septem­ber 2014, we are start­ing to re­build a true spirit of na­tional unity. The demo­cratic forces have be­gun to be­lieve in their abil­i­ties to forge a new and free Burk­ina, where jus­tice is guar­an­teed for all, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and its fruits will be fairly shared.

Burk­ina Faso has no score to set­tle with ji­hadists to merit the bar­baric at­tacks of Jan­uary 15. Other than the fool­hardy idea of at­tack­ing so-called Western in­ter­ests, they had noth­ing to gain from spread­ing ter­ror here, un­less they were act­ing on be­half of in­di­vid­u­als or groups who want to desta­bilise our in­sti­tu­tions at any cost, to take back con­trol of the coun­try.

It is no se­cret that for­mer Pres­i­dent Blaise Com­paoré en­ter­tained in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tions with ji­hadist groups, some of which had taken up res­i­dence in Oua­gadougou. They were at home in Oua­gadougou, and came and went as they pleased.

Some of them even built sump­tu­ous vil­las, as was the case with Com­paoré’s Mau­ri­ta­nian ad­viser, Moustapha Chafi. Chafi, Com­paoré’s main link to ter­ror­ist groups in the Sa­hel (es­pe­cially those in north­ern Mali), ne­go­ti­ated the re­lease of Western hostages for large ran­soms in the re­gion for years and was con­stantly in con­tact with al-Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb.

An ob­scure ji­hadist group, the Sa­hara Emi­rate, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the kid­nap­ping, while vet­eran Al­ge­rian ji­hadi Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s al-Mura­bitoun (the same group that killed two dozen at the Radis­son Blu ho­tel in Ba­mako, Mali, in Novem­ber 2015) took credit for the Oua­gadougou at­tacks.

The ter­ror­ists’ goal was to desta­bilise Burk­ina Faso. Why now? A plau­si­ble hy­poth­e­sis is to re­gain a rear base they lost when a pop­u­lar up­ris­ing over­threw Com­paoré in Novem­ber 2014. The only peo­ple who would stand to gain from th­ese at­tacks are those want­ing to main­tain the sta­tus quo of the lu­cra­tive traf­fick­ing of Western hostages.

Our coun­try chose demo­cratic re­newal when we chased Com­paoré from power in Oc­to­ber 2014 and halted the Septem­ber 2015 coup d’état. Clearly this does not please ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially those who prof­ited from the de­posed regime. We do not need to look far to see the mo­tives of the Oua­gadougou at­tacks and those pre­ced­ing them. The ji­hadist ex­pla­na­tion is a dis­trac­tion. Chériff Sy is a jour­nal­ist, editor and founder of the weekly

news­pa­per Ben­dré, and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Tran­si­tional Coun­cil (the name of Burk­ina Faso’s in­terim Par­lia­ment

af­ter a rev­o­lu­tion over­threw for­mer pres­i­dent Blaise Com­paoré)

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