Burkina Faso: Junta critic forcibly enlisted to fight jihadists

A civil society activist has been summoned by the authorities in Burkina Faso and forcibly conscripted to join the defense and security forces to fight against jihadists.

The conscription occurred on March 22, a week after Boukaré Ouedraogo, who leads the civil society group Mouvement l’Appel de Kaya, made a critical media review of the security situation in the country. He had also questioned the gains made in the war by the junta led by Captain Ibrahim Traore.

Ouedraogo criticised the war effort during a press conference on March 16, 2023.

Following the remarks, Ouedraogo was summoned to appear before the President, who was on a working visit to the town of Kaya, about 100 metres north of Ouagadougou. After his interrogation, he was picked up by the military and was thought to have been arrested only for pictures to emerge a few days later showing him in military uniform undergoing training in a military camp.

Boukare Ouedraogo spotted in military uniform

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Burkina Faso said Ouédraogo, who has visual impairment, has been forcibly enlisted into the Volontaire pour la défense de la patrie (VDP), civilian volunteers in the army.

The action has sparked outrage in the country. Human rights organisation, Mouvement burkinabè des droits de l’homme et des peuples (MBDHP) have condemned the incident, calling it an “abduction.” They added that the incident adds to “the recurrent and systematic erosion of freedom of opinion.”

Another CSO, le Collectif contre l’impunité et la stigmatisation des communautés (CISC), also condemned the junta’s action against Ouedraogo and called for the activist’s “immediate release. »

The MFWA is equally concerned about the plight of Ouedraogo and demands his freedom. What the Burkinabe authorities have done amounts to arbitrarily imposing a prison sentence with hard labour on a citizen merely for expressing a dissenting opinion. It is unacceptable for a citizen to be stripped of his rights and dignity. The impunity must end.

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