“I call for the immediate and unconditional release of all the abducted women and for the national authorities to quickly carry out an effective, impartial and independent investigation to identify those responsible and hold them to account.“. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Austrian Volker Türk, said to himself “alarm“, in a press release this Monday, January 16, by the kidnapping of dozens of women in Arbinda, in the north of Burkina Faso. According to him, this could constitute “the first such attack deliberately targeting women in Burkina Faso“.
They are more than fifty to be missing, following two kidnappings, between Thursday 12 and Friday January 13 by suspected jihadists, according to local sources of AFP. Arbinda is a locality regularly affected by violence.
“Women have managed to escape the vigilance of terrorists”
The women, including young girls, left with their carts on Thursday, January 12. “They got together to pick leaves and wild fruits in the bush because there is nothing left to eat.“, says one of the locals. “On the ground of their occupations, these women regularly see jihadist groups“, specifies Daouda Diallo, member of the Collective against the impunity and the stigmatization of the communities, in an interview granted to TV5MONDE. But this time, according to the testimony of several inhabitants and local officials wishing to remain anonymous, they would have decided to abduct a first group of about forty women.
“On Thursday evening, not seeing them return, we thought that their carts had had a problem. But three survivors came back to tell us what had happened“, says a resident of the village about ten kilometers southeast of Arbinda.
According to another resident, the next day, eight kilometers north of Arbinda, about twenty women who were not informed of the first abduction, were in turn kidnapped.In both groups, women managed to escape the vigilance of the terrorists and returned to the village on foot” he explained.
Ongoing research, according to the governor of the Sahel region
According to local officials who confirmed the abductions, the army and its civilian auxiliaries searched the area, without success. “We believe that the kidnappers took them to their various bases“, says a resident.
The Governor of the Sahel Region ensures for his part that everything is done to save them. “Research is underway to find “safe and sound”, the fifty or so women kidnapped”, can we read in a press release written by the governor himself, Lieutenant-Colonel Rodolphe Sorgho.
“All means are implemented, on the ground and air plan to find these womena security source told AFP. Aircraft fly over the area to detect any suspicious movement“.
In a press release shared on Tuesday, January 17, the members of the group “Voix féministes d’Afrique francophone” denounce for their part “the inertia of the Burkina-Faso authorities and the institutions of the sub-region.” “We decry and denounce this silence by demanding action from the authorities for the release of these women”, can we read. It also calls for action by ECOWAS and the African Union.
And for good reason, Arbinda and its surroundings are regularly the scene of deadly jihadist attacks (80 dead in August 2021, 42 at the end of 2019). “These kidnappings take place in a difficult context in a city surrounded, attacked, by extremist armed groups from the north since 2020”recalls Daouda Diallo.
Kidnappings on a new scale in Burkina Faso
In general, there are fewer women and they are held for less time (about a day). They are subjected to physical abuse (beaten and raped) and moral abuse (insults). They are attacked when they move to look for food, look for firewood (to prepare the kitchen if there is food) or even to try to recover the livestock they had.
These latest kidnappings, which took place on January 12 and 13, are a novelty in Burkina Faso, according to several observers.This is the first mass kidnapping since the beginning of the security crisis and it will be necessary to manage this situation well to avoid any drama or a recurrence.“said a senior officer, close to the staff.
The area in the north and east of the country, where nearly a million people live according to the UN, is under blockade by jihadist groups. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, transitional president resulting from a military coup on September 30 – the second in eight months – has set himself the goal of “the reconquest of the territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists”.
France for its part condemned the abduction of these women “with the greatest firmness”and called “to their immediate release”while reaffirming “his solidarity as well as his commitment alongside Burkina Faso”.