Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 08:57 GMT

Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 - Burkina Faso

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 July 2017
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 - Burkina Faso, 19 July 2017, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Following historic national elections that brought President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to power in late 2015, Burkina Faso's new government took office January 13, 2016. Just days later, a soft target terrorist attack on a café and hotel occurred in Ouagadougou, revealing shortcomings in the government's crisis response plans. The past year has seen a significant uptick in terrorist activity, including numerous cross-border attacks, although it was not always clear which terrorist organization was responsible. Many of these incidents remained under investigation, with no prosecutions before the end of 2016.

Events of the past two years, including the extra-constitutional step taken by the former Presidential Security Regiment to hold the then-transitional government hostage, in addition to the increase in violent attacks, have continued to demonstrate the need for broad security sector reform. Recommendations from a security sector reform commission established in December 2015 were never made public, and, in the past year, the country has not seen significant changes either in the structure or leadership of any of its security services. Further, the Burkinabe government appears to have largely rejected recommendations made in a UN evaluation of security sector reform priorities.

Burkina Faso's overall willingness to engage in regional counterterrorism and stability operations was made possible primarily as a result of approximately US $30 million over the past four years that was provided to its security forces through the Department of State's Africa Peacekeeping Program (AFRICAP) II, Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance contracts, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), and National Defense Authorization Act Section 2282 funding initiatives.

Attacks on security forces and a kidnapping in 2016, combined with attacks in neighboring countries, have bred a sense of insecurity and fear amongst the population. In response to this insecurity, the Burkinabe military has taken steps to address the need for increased coordination and communication between members of the Burkinabe armed forces and its citizens. In the summer of 2016, for example, the armed forces partnered with the United States to host a security symposium with community members and civil society from the affected regions.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Burkina Faso suffered its most deadly year related to terrorist incidents in 2016. Incidents included:

  • On January 15, there was an attack on Café Cappuccino and Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou; 30 were killed and 70 wounded.

  • On January 16, a Western couple was kidnapped in Djibo.

  • There were also several cross-border attacks on security forces. These included Tin Akoff (January 15, two deaths), Koutougou (May 18, two wounded), Intangom (May 31, three deaths), Markoye (September 1, two deaths, three wounded), Intangom (October 12, four deaths, two wounded), and Nassoumba (December 16, 12 deaths, four wounded).

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Burkina Faso's Counterterrorism Strategy, Mission de Securitization du Nord, strives to address terrorist activities along its northern border. To accomplish this, in January 2013, Burkina Faso operationalized and deployed a joint Army-Gendarmerie counterterrorism task force known as the Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT). Attributable to multiple peacekeeping operation deployments, this force, which originally had projected end strength of 1,000, has consistently been at a level of approximately 500 troops. Burkina Faso augmented the GFAT with additional troops after the October 12 attack in Intangom.

In addition to the ongoing Mission de Securitization du Nord, the Burkinabe military plans to counter terrorist activity more effectively by building a more capable Army unit in its northern 1st Military Region. Consistent with the country's low national Gross Domestic Product, however, the military lacks funding. Building a capable force will require international assistance.

Burkina Faso's legal system struggles with a lack of resources and coordination to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. In November, the Burkina Faso Council of Ministers passed a draft law on the establishment, organization, and functioning of a judicial process specializing in counterterrorism. Burkinabe security and law enforcement officials continued to cite border security as a major area of concern. Burkina Faso continued to screen travelers using the U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES).

Host government security forces actively sought training from the United States and other countries, occasionally receiving refresher training from multiple sources on the same topic. U.S. assistance included workshops on cross-border security, crisis management, criminal justice procedures, and training on the prosecution of terrorists through the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Burkina Faso is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, a Financial Action Task Force-style body that is part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In 2016, Burkina Faso enacted the uniform West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism law, and also passed 11 other laws to improve its framework. As of 2016, however, Burkina Faso continued to experience challenges operationalizing the mechanisms of its National Committee on Administrative Freezing, which has not yet achieved functionality; implementing UN Security Council resolution 1373. Its financial intelligence unit (FIU), Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières (CENTIF), comprises magistrates, police, gendarmerie, and financial experts under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

The Government of Burkina Faso has a three-year (2014-2016) strategy for fighting financial crime, but due to recent political uncertainty, much of this strategy has not been implemented. Furthermore, although Burkinabe law enforcement has the will to improve its ability to counter terrorist financing, it lacked the necessary resources and experience. Burkina Faso worked on developing a special court for terrorist financing, and in recent years it has placed CENTIF under the Ministry of Economy and Finance. There are some laws in place that help the work of CENTIF, such as a requirement for local banks to report large deposits. Other laws and customs make their task difficult. Burkina Faso is a cash society, making money difficult to track. Also, an agreement between West African countries for the free movement of people and goods allows individuals uninhibited entry to and exit from Burkina Faso with any amount of money.

Burkina Faso therefore remains at risk of money laundering and terrorist financing and faces threats emanating from criminal activities and insecurity in the Sahel region. Its capacity to respond to these threats remained insufficient, although the Government of Burkina Faso continued to cooperate with regional and global counterterrorism efforts. Records exchange with countries outside of WAEMU is possible via bilateral agreement, and CENTIF was open to exchanging information with counterpart FIUs on a reciprocal basis, which it has done in several cases. Burkina Faso has not incorporated the WAEMU directives on money laundering and terrorist financing into its national law, however. Additionally, it has yet to fully demonstrate the effectiveness of its terrorist assets freezing regime, has not adopted procedures for the declaration of cross border currency movement, and is slow to move prosecutions of financial crimes through its court system.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: Burkina Faso did not have programs to rehabilitate or reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society in 2016. Three TSCTP grants were provided to build community resilience. One grant fielded seven volunteers in the Sahel region to work with community members to raise awareness about violent extremism and engage youth in activities to strengthen a community identity. The second was to build awareness and create a "see something say something" network. The third funded regional filmmakers with short productions that will be viewed in rural communities as part of a film caravan.

Regional and International Cooperation: Burkina Faso increased its collaboration with the United Nations on counterterrorism matters and participated in international fora, such as the GCTF's Sahel Working Group. Burkina Faso was a member of the TSCTP, was active in ECOWAS, and is a member of the G-5 Sahel group (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) that was created in February 2014.

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