Burkina Faso has been the theater of intense armed violence between jihadist armed groups and the government since 2015, with more than 550 attacks carried out by these groups against both Burkinabe armed forces and civilians.
These attacks have taken place in the Sahel region, close to the border with Mali and Niger and have been carried out by Ansaroul Islam – a local jihadist group operating in the country –, as well as by armed groups that operates also in Mali: the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). The capital Ouagadougou has also been targeted.
In response, the government has deployed nearly 2000 soldiers in the east and in the Sahel and special gendarmerie units and conventional military forces have carried out large operations in the region, notably with the support of France via its operation Barkhane.
‘Our monitoring of the situation since 2015 allows us today to conclude that the Burkinabe army and France are currently engaged in a number of parallel non-international armed conflicts against Ansaroul Islam, ISGS, ISWAP, and JNIM ’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
‘This classification has been triggered by both the level of armed violence and the degree of organization of these armed groups’ she adds.
Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis of these conflicts, including information about parties, classification and applicable international law.
Classifying a situation of armed violence as an armed conflict has several implications: international humanitarian law (IHL) applies – in addition to international human rights law – and war crimes can be committed by members of the Brukinabe armed forces and of the various jihadist armed groups involved. For countries that are not involved in these conflicts, this classification notably triggers arms control treaty regimes.
Two main self-defence groups operate in Burkina Faso: the Koglweogo groups – ‘guardians of the bush’ in the local Mossi language –, and the Dozo groups – a brotherhood of around 5,000 hunters active in several West African countries and with a strong presence in Burkina Faso.
Aimed primarily at fighting crime and banditry, they have flourished in recent years following the weakening of the central government and the deterioration of security in the country.
These two groups have been involved in armed clashed around attempts by the Koglweogo groups to establish control in the Hauts-Bassins. They have also clashed with jihadist armed groups while signing, at the same time, non-aggression agreements with Islamist forces or collaborating with them regularly.
‘While self-defence groups constitute a threat to security in Burkina Faso, they are not sufficiently organized to be party to a NIAC’ underlines Dr Chiara Redaelli.
France has been militarily active in the country since 2014 when it launched Operation Barkhane with the aim of fighting jihadist groups operating in the Sahel region. The operation is conducted with the agreement of members of the G5-Sahel, namely Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
In light of the number of armed confrontations between French forces and jihadist groups present in Burkina Faso, France is a party to the NIACs against the jihadist groups operating in Burkina Faso.
Chantal Touma follows our Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict online while working as Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross Legal Department in Damascus. In this interview, she tells about the programme, distance learning and what it brings to her career.
isafmedia, via Wikimedia Commons
Following the withdrawal of US troops and the fact that the Taliban gained effective control over most of the country, including Kabul, we revised the classification of the armed conflicts that are taking place in the country.
UN Photo/Manuel Elias
This IHL Talk, co-organized with the International Peace Institute (IPI), aims at contrasting approaches to, and decision-making on, humanitarian affairs in the relevant multilateral fora in New York and Geneva.
The 2021 edition will address two contemporary challenges and issues related to armed conflict: the classification of non-international armed conflicts in which a myriad of armed non-state actors are involved; and cyber conflicts.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Medical Aid for Palestinians / Ezz Al Zanoon
This project aims to ensure better protection of and assistance for persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict or its aftermath by identifying legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict, and the policies and practices required to put these obligations into effect.
Oliver Peters / Pixabay
The ‘Counter-Terror Pro LegEm’ project combines legal analysis with social science research to (1) examine the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures and their effects on human rights and (2) analyse the structure of terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic State and see whether they qualify as ‘organized armed groups’ for the purpose of international humanitarian law.