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Yirigou Massacre in Burkina Faso: How to Put an End to Ethnic Stigmatisation

18.01.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
It is now common place in Africa to hear of ethnic conflicts, inter religious clashes as well as jihadist attacks that have resulted in the loss of several lives. In Nigeria for example, there is an ongoing war between farmers and herders that has led to the loss of thousands of lives. In Burkina Faso of recent, armed men that have been described by the government as ‘terrorists’ stormed the village of Yirigou in the Centre-north of the country firing into the air and shooting dead some six persons, including the chief and his son.

What is the Yirigou Massacre?

The Yirigou massacre has been described as an attack on the village of Yirogou by jihadists, which is followed by retaliation of the Koglweogo militia against the Fulani. On the night of December 31, 2018 breaking January 1, 2019 unidentified gunmen on motorcycles, attacked the Yirigou village in the department of Barsalogho, Sanmatenga province, firing into the air and then shooting six people dead. After the incident, the attackers are said to have retreated to the Province of Soum in the North. Members of the Kogloweogo self-defense militia, belonging to the Mossi community (the majority ethnic group in Burkina Faso) immediately retaliated to the killings, attacking the Fulani herders, accusing them of complicity with the so called jihadists. Their camps are attacked and several people killed. The violence then persists onto January 2. The attack is said to be the first of its kind, that is, different communities attacking each other, in Burkina Faso since the start of jihadist attacks in that country.

Loss of Human Lives

There have been conflicting figures with regards to the number of lives that were lost in the attack. Following the attacks, the Burkinabe government on January 2 claimed the death toll stood at 13. However, a witness who preferred to remain anonymous denounced the figure and said 48 bodies were found on the scene of the incident. Later on January 4, the government revised its initial deaths of 13 and said at least 46 people were killed in the attack. In the days that followed, the figure is taken to 49 deaths. This uncertainty as to the number of people that were killed in the incident led to thousands of people from several communities demonstrating on January 12 in the capital Ouagadougou, denouncing the ethnic violence in Yirogou. They also called for the dissolution of the self-defense group involved in the killings. According the organizers of the demonstrations, the death toll of the attack in Yirigou is far higher than mentioned in the official report, claiming 72 people were killed and 6,000 displaced.

Since 2015, the northern and eastern parts of Burkina Faso have been the scene of jihadist attacks by various groups such as Ansarul Islam, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims and the Islamic State in the Great Sahara. The capital, Ouagadougou has also been targeted three times. Between 2015 and the end of 2018, such violence caused the death of 270 people.

Measures Taken by Government to Remedy the Yirigou Incident

On January 9, the Burkinabe government convened a cabinet meeting to seek solutions and measures that can be put in place to help victims of the Yirigou attacks. The meeting focused mostly on what will be done about the displaced as a result of the incident. The Ministers of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Security and Social Action and National Solidarity took turns to brief the Council on the evolution of the situation at their level. Regarding the Ministry of Territorial administration and Decentralisation, the minister noted that a crisis committee has been set up and is responsible for securing the area while waiting on ongoing investigations to figure out who is responsible for the violence. The Security Minister for his part said more than a hundred men have been deployed to Yirigou to keep watch over the area and will remain there for as long as needed. The Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity has been tasked by the Council of Ministers to take care of the displaced and according to her; the establishment of a reception camp in Basarlgho has so far welcomed 1285 people.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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