Burkina Faso is a small land-locked country in West Africa you wouldn’t often hear about in the news. However, on Friday, January 15, it was struck by terror in its capital, Ouagadougou. Attackers set off several explosions in the Splendid Hotel, a place frequented often by many tourists around the world, and took the lives of many foreigners. Attacks also took place in a neighbouring café and another hotel.
Militant groups associated with al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Mourabitoun have claimed responsibility for the attacks that took the lives of twenty-eight people and injured several more. Shortly after a joint operation took place with French security forces. This is definitely one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in the history Burkina Faso. It has also highlighted how easily groups like al-Qaeda take advantage of the political and social insecurity in African states.
This was not the first attack of its kind. In November 2015, AQIM was also involved in an attack on a hotel in Bamako, the capital of neighboring Mali. Nineteen people died in the November 2015 attack. The states in Africa are most prone to attacks such as these due to their political instability. Libya plays host to AQIM due to the instability that has grown in that region. The same can be said for ISIS held territory. Burkina Faso is not a different case. While terrorist attacks are not that common, political uncertainty is. In 2014, the toppling of their long-term leader followed an interim government that teetered in place, falling in September and being reinstated shortly after. The instability bodes well for groups that want to create chaos.
There are several factors at play in this attack, which has shaken many Western states and begs the question, why? It is possible that this attack was directly targeted toward the French forces and their governance in the neighboring areas in Africa. By attacking Mali and now Burkina Faso, these groups spread the French forces within the state thin and therefore would continue their ability to grow within the region. The attack is obviously also targeted toward Western governments and their various political or economic influences. It is also likely that attacks such as these work to hinder the UN peace talks that have been taking place in Mali between the Central Government and the Coordination and Platform rebel alliances. AQIM also holds ISIS as a rival group and by such terror acts, hopes to secure a stronghold in North and West Africa – it is chaos in competition with chaos. The internal political and social challenges must be addressed in order to properly combat radical groups that could emerge in instability.