Simultaneous attacks by extremist insurgents on a military base and Arbinda town in Soum province in the north of Burkina Faso resulted in the deaths of 35 civilians – almost all of them women – as well as seven soldiers. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has declared 48 hours of national mourning, and all Christmas celebrations have been cancelled.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit lamented the death and suffering caused by these attacks, the deadliest in five years of escalating violence in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in the Sahel region.
“Even in the midst of our celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, such appalling attacks remind us that conflict and violence remain the daily reality for many communities”, said Tveit. “We pray for the victims of these attacks and their families, and for all the people of Burkina Faso and of the Sahel region, that they might be preserved from such brutality and freed from fear.”
Since 2015 when violence began to spread across the Sahel, Burkina Faso has experienced increasingly frequent and lethal attacks by extremist groups, with hundreds of people killed and an estimated 560,000 displaced. A predominantly Muslim country, Burkina Faso also has a significant Christian population of approximately 20%.
In early November WCC, jointly with ACT Alliance, wrote a letter to President Kabore, based on communications received from Rev. Tegwende Leonard Kinda of the Association des Eglises évangéliques réformées du Burkina Faso which presented an alarming picture of the humanitarian and security situation in the region of Kongoussi town following a spate of attacks in the area. The letter appealed to the Government of Burkina Faso to do its utmost to protect people of that area against an advancing wave of extremist attacks, to preserve all Burkinabé people from sectarian violence and divisions, and to arrest the worsening humanitarian emergency resulting from these attacks.
“We extend our appeal to the whole international community to support the governments of Burkina Faso and its neighbours in addressing this crisis impacting so many lives in the region”, concluded Tveit.