The existence of Burkina Faso is in danger from Islamist militants, warned army Captain Ibrahim Traore when he was sworn in as interim president of the country on 21 October.
“We are confronted with a security and humanitarian crisis without precedent,” said Traore, who ousted his predecessor, the military leader Paul-Henri Damiba, in a coup on 30 September.
“Our aims are none other than the reconquest of territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists,” he added. “Burkina’s existence is in danger.”
Damiba himself had seized power in January, forcing out Burkina Faso’s last elected president, Roch Kabore.
Both coups resulted from anger among soldiers at the authorities’ failure to curtail Islamist groups who have carried out relentless attacks on civilians, many of them targeted at Christians, at the cost of thousands of lives.
Since 2015, jihadi violence has spread from neighbouring Mali and Niger to affect most regions of Burkina Faso, particularly the north and north-east.
It is estimated Islamist groups control at least 40 per cent of the country and that two million people have been forced from their homes because of the insurgency.
According to a report received from a Barnabas project partner earlier in October, more than 6,000 schools are shut, 50,000 teachers are without work and many thousands of children have no education.
“We have never experienced before what we now experience,” a Christian contact told Barnabas.
“The terrorists prevent people from farming,” he added. “Granaries and barns have been destroyed in many villages. They carry away all the cattle.”
Another Christian contact told us that attacks by jihadists have closed churches, schools and other public services. “The coup d’état added to the fears and anxiety of the population,” she told us.
From Barnabas Aid sources and other contacts