Bringing Burkina Faso to its knees

The Land of the Upright Man is on its knees, buckling under the weight of the fastest-growing jihadist insurgency on earth, which is spreading through West Africa.

Burkina Faso is falling to anarchy. In the six short years since Burkina Faso suffered its first attack, terrorists allied to Al Qaeda and Islamic State have turned one of Africa’s most peaceful states into one of the most dangerous places on earth.

The jihadists have overwhelmed the military, driving the forces of law and order back towards the capital. Armed gangs, traffickers and militias have sprung up to fill the vacuum and weapons have flooded in from the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea.

The country’s war has killed about 5,000 and forced about a million people to flee their homes. Tens of thousands have sought refuge in Kaya, with new waves arriving almost every day.

Thousands of schools have been closed across Burkina Faso because of the violence. Now more than 1,700,000 children like Daoda are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to Unicef.

“Three times gunmen attacked our village in the middle of the night,” says Ouegoudaoua Gasse, a farmer who recently arrived in one of Kaya’s new IDP camps, which are being supported by UNICEF.

“Four men were going to the mosque to pray. They shot them in the back as they tried to run,” says the 50-year-old, raising his hands to mimic the rapid fire of an automatic rifle.

“They were good people. We did not even have time to bury the bodies. I have no idea why they did it. I don’t know who they are.”

As the government has retreated, hundreds of self-defence militia groups known as Koglweogo — “guardians of the bush” in the local Mooré language — have formed to police rural areas.

Many of the militiamen hail from the majority ethnic Mooré community. Despite widespread accusations of egregious killings, the government, whose most powerful members are also Mooré, have turned a blind eye.

In Poessin on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, we met a band of a dozen Koglweogo militiamen clad in brown uniforms. After showing off their ageing shotguns, bags of seized cannabis, the militiamen took your correspondent to see their main prize: four men chained to a tree.

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