Burkina Faso’s economy is heavily dependent on assistance from international aid organizations and tourism. The excerpted article from generally neutral mondafrique.com, which covers North and West African affairs, discusses how militants aligned with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) risk disrupting the government’s efforts to appeal to international actors. The article focuses on the recent Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou, which took place without incident. However, fear of a terrorist attack lingered over the festival because the militants now operate in 26 of Burkina Faso’s municipalities, including Solhan, where the article notes the militants killed around 160 people in one attack in July. More recently, in November, the militants crossed Burkina Faso’s border into Togo and launched an attack on a military post for the first time. As a result, the article notes that Mali’s hosting of the festival in Ouagadougou, whose hotels and cafes had been attacked by the al-Qaeda-aligned militants in previous years, was risky. Some questioned whether Burkina Faso’s President could secure the capital from terrorist attacks, but noted that a safe and successful festival would show international organizations that they could continue to work safely in the country and continue to provide aid to Burkina Faso’s hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Further south in the Sahel, in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates, the Borno State government has begun to deploy the military to return internally displaced people (IDPs) to their homes and to close IDP camps. According to an article in the Nigerian daily Punch, which reports on social movements and challenges the political authorities, the Borno State government is concerned about rampant criminality in the camps and is planning to build houses and promptly resettle the IDPs. Interviews with IDPs note their desire to return to their villages and reduce dependence on the government, but at the same time there are concerns about whether Boko Haram would return to attack their villages. Like in Burkina Faso, the Borno State government is trying to demonstrate that there is a semblance of normalcy in a war-torn region and show Nigerians and international organizations that there is progress. However, the article concludes that a return to normalcy in either location is not without risks.

It remains to be seen whether the organization of the festival, even with zero incidents, will be enough to defuse the controversy over the advisability of holding a global festival in a country which has nearly a million internally displaced people and hundreds of thousands of children deprived of schools due to the terrorist threat.

Source: “Burkina Faso, la grande fête du cinéma africain sous la menace djihadiste (Burkina Faso, the great festival of African cinema under jihadist threat),” mondafrique.com (news outlet which covers North and West African affairs from a neutral perspective), 14 October 2021. https://mondafrique.com/burkina-fasola-grande-fete-du-cinema-africain-sous-la-menace-djihadiste/

By organizing the 27th edition of FESPACO just three months after the terrorist attack in Solhan, in the northeast of the country, which left more than 160 dead and caused worldwide anger, the Burkinabé authorities are taking on a risky gamble. Thousands of festival-goers from all over the world in screening rooms, hotels, and restaurants indeed are ideal targets for jihadist groups who have in the past struck the Burkinabé capital twice (2016, 2018). In such a scenario, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré would struggle to defend his decision, given the extent of the threat. On the other hand, if the 27th edition proceeds without incident, the Burkinabé authorities hope to derive the greatest success from it by praising their control of the security situation in the country.

He especially hopes in this way to receive pledges from his international partners, particularly those who have supported the organization of FESPACO: European Union, OIF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNDP, Africalia, Prince Claus Fund, Stichting Doen, ECOWAS, UEMOA, Conseil de l ‘Agreement. However, it remains to be seen whether the organization of the festival, even with zero incidents, will be enough to defuse the controversy over the advisability of holding a global festival in a country which has nearly a million internally displaced people and hundreds of thousands of people and children deprived of school due to the terrorist threat.

Source: “Borno cites rapes, drug abuse, goes ahead with IDP camps’ closure,” punchng.com (Nigerian daily which historically has reported on social movements and challenged the political authorities), 25 October 2021. https://punchng.com/borno-cites-rapes-drug-abuse-goes-ahead-with-idp-camps-closure/

The Special Adviser on Public Relations, Media and Strategy to Borno State Governor, Isa Gusau, has said the government will close Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the state because of growing complaints of rapes and other criminal activities. Some displaced persons have expressed fears over the state governor’s pronouncement that all IDP camps in the state would be closed by 31 December. Bitrus Jarma, a 52-year-old displaced father of five stated, “We share border with Cameroon. Boko Haram are still operating in our village. I wonder where they will return us to.” However, some of the IDPs have expressed optimism towards the imminent return to where they referred to as home.

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