Photo: Poverty Action Lab.

Schoolteachers under attack

Islamist terrorists in Burkina Faso have been targeting schools and forcing teachers to give lessons on the Koran and teach in Arabic. People are terrified, according to former NAI guest researcher Lassane Yameogo, but at the same time they are determined not to let terrorists create a fissure between people who hold different faiths.

During the past four months, terrorists have repeatedly attacked several schools in the north of the country. The terrorists demand that teachers only teach in Arabic and give lessons on the Koran. At the beginning of March, a headmaster was killed in his school. As a consequence, many teachers in the north fled from their homes. However, it also created a will to resist the terror.

“Burkina Faso has a long history of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. People are determined not to let a group of terrorists change that”, Yameogo states.

Teachers throughout the country on 10 March marched in silence to protest against attacks on the education system and demanded protection for teachers and pupils. Shortly afterwards, security forces succeeded in capturing a group of terrorists who were hiding in the mountains close to the border with Mali.

Lassane Yameogo.

However, other groups operate in the area. The most notorious is Ansarul Islam, led by Malam Dicko, who supports Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM’s ambition is to create an Islamic state in the area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Ansarul Islam has managed to attract radicalised young men in the region and give them military training.

“The main problem is the absence of Malian authorities on their side of the border. If the security forces of the countries involved cooperated, terrorists could not run over borders into hiding after attacks”, Yameogo says.

Because of the fragile security situation, people living in the border area have created a self-defence militia called Koglweogo, “guardians of the bush”. Koglweogo is composed of armed local men, who say they complement police patrols in the area (which the men claim are ineffective), but the militia has been accused of many abuses.

“However, last week’s successful army operation is a symbolic victory for Burkina Faso’s security forces in the fight against jihadism. Hopefully, the population will regain its confidence in the authorities”, Yameogo concludes.

TEXT: Johan Sävström

Read more - suggestions from the NAI library

To the top