Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso 2023

Freedom of expression was curtailed with foreign journalists expelled and media suspended by authorities in the context of the post-coup transitional regime and the armed conflict. Armed groups and government forces committed unlawful attacks. Several public figures were victims of enforced disappearances and women and girls were victims of abduction. Armed groups severely restricted the economic and social rights of civilians in towns and villages under siege.


The armed conflict continued between army forces together with the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDPs) – an auxiliary force – and Ansaroul Islam and other armed groups. One Burkinabe in 10 was displaced by the conflict. The government’s control over its territory was limited to 65%, according to the prime minister. The government extended the state of emergency to eight additional provinces and promulgated a decree allowing the authorities to conscript citizens for national defence purposes. Burkina Faso also contracted an alliance with Mali and Niger, the Alliance of Sahelian States, for defence purposes.

Freedom of expression

Authorities who came to power by a coup in September 2022 clamped down on anyone they considered to be critical of their governance. Conscription was used by the authorities to silence and harass independent voices. In March, Boukaré Ouedraogo, president of Appel de Kaya, a civil society organization, was forcibly enrolled for a month as a VDP by the military, notwithstanding his visual impairment, after he criticized the government for the lack of drinkable water in the city of Kaya and for their inadequate response to the security situation. In early November, Daouda Diallo, secretary general of the Coalition Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities, was conscripted by the government, along with 11 other civil society actors and media figures who publicly expressed their criticism of government policies. On 1 December, Daouda Diallo was abducted by security forces and a few days later a picture showing him armed and in military clothing circulated on social media. On 27 December, Ablassé Ouedraogo, a politician and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was arrested at his home by individuals in civilian clothes and taken to an unknown destination.

Journalists and media

On 31 March, two correspondents for the French newspapers Libération and Le Monde were summoned to the State Security agency, the authority in charge of domestic intelligence, and questioned for their reporting on the conflict. Both were subsequently expelled from Burkina Faso.1

In March, the French media agency France 24 was suspended after broadcasting the written responses of the leader of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb to questions submitted by a journalist.

In May, two journalists from the Omega media group, Lookman Sawadogo and Alain Traoré, were detained and charged with “complicity in failing to report an offence” in the case concerning audio messages calling on citizens to burn down the palace of the Mogho Naaba, one of Burkina Faso’s major traditional chieftains. They were acquitted in July.

In August, the Omega media group was suspended for one month after broadcasting an interview with a Nigerien political figure (a former member of the deposed president Bazoum’s cabinet and spokesperson for a political movement opposed to the new military authorities).

Unlawful attacks and killings

Abuses by armed groups

According to reports from media and the NGO Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights / Mouvement Burkinabe des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), at least 60 civilians were killed in February during an attack against the town of Partiaga (Tapoa province, Eastern region), allegedly by members of Ansaroul Islam.

On 11 May, according to a communiqué of the governor of the Boucle de Mouhoun region, at least 33 civilians were killed by an armed group in the village of Youlou while they were tending their fields.

On 6 August, suspected Ansaroul Islam members unlawfully killed at least 22 people during a raid in Nohao (a town in the Centre-Est region), in which tradespeople were targeted. A dozen cars and trucks carrying goods were also burnt during the attack.

Abuses by government forces

On 13 February, military soldiers and VDPs abducted seven civilians, including at least one minor, from La Ferme in Ouahigouya, where there is a substantial population of displaced people. These individuals were taken to the Zondoma military camp and were beaten and stoned to death, a crime that was video recorded and spread via social media.

During 3-4 April, several soldiers based in Dori (Sahel province) beat up and shot dead seven civilians in Petit-Paris, also wounding several others, according to the MBDHP. The raid was reportedly in retaliation for the murder of a soldier in the neighbourhood a few days earlier.

On 20 April, soldiers accompanied by VDPs killed at least 147 civilians in the village of Karma (Yatenga province, Northern region) during a patrol operation. Members of the 3rd Rapid Intervention Battalion, a special unit of the army, participated in the operation.2

Enforced disappearances

Several public figures were victims of enforced disappearances.

On 25 March, El Hadj Hamidou Bandé, national president of the Ruugas, an organization representing pastoralists’ interests, was abducted by four men in Fada Ngourma (Eastern region). A few days later, one of his associates, Moussa Thiombiano known as “Django”, a Koglweogo chieftain, was abducted near his residence.

On 28 April, Mohamed Diallo, the 74-year-old imam of the Lafiabougou mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso (Hauts-Bassins region) was arrested at his home by men presenting themselves as members of the security and defence forces.

On 21 September, businessman Anselme Kambou was taken from his home by suspected members of the intelligence services and taken to an unknown destination. In November, a court in the capital, Ouagadougou, ordered the intelligence services to release him but he remained in detention.

His fate and whereabouts, and those of the other three men above, remained unknown at year’s end.

Gender-based violence

On 12 January, 66 women, girls, and new-borns were abducted by alleged members of Ansaroul Islam, near the village of Liki (Soum province, Sahel region).3 The women had been gathering food due to the siege against the town of Arbinda by Ansaroul Islam. They were freed in the town of Tougouri, on 16 January, during a routine road control of the truck they were in.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Armed groups, such as Ansaroul Islam, abused the economic, social and cultural rights of thousands of Burkinabe by laying siege to at least 46 towns and villages. Inflation became endemic in several of the besieged towns such as Djibo, Tanwalbougou and Gayeri. Armed groups sabotaged water infrastructure in Djibo, attacked food supply convoys trying to reach these towns and forbade residents from farming their lands or grazing their livestock around many of these.

Right to education

As of October, at least 6,549 schools were forced to close due to the conflict, according to the Ministry of Education. The same source stated that 539 schools were reopened in 2023. According to UNICEF, more than 31,000 teachers and over 1 million schoolchildren were affected by these school closures.

  1. “Burkina Faso: In the face of repeated attacks, the right to information must be protected”, 7 April (French only)
  2. Burkina Faso: Responsibility of the army indicated in Karma massacre”, 3 May
  3. Burkina Faso: “Death Was Slowly Creeping on Us”: Living Under Siege in Burkina Faso, 2 November