Burkina Faso’s new military government said Oct. 26 that the country is on a “war footing,” and launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the overstretched army fight jihadist insurgents. The recruits receive two weeks of basic training and then join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a village-based militia network. Created in 2020, the VDP was supposed to represent each “region, ethnicity, political opinion, and religious denomination.” But the reality is few recruits have been drawn from the pastoralist Fulani, and the ethnicity—accused by some in the security forces of siding with the jihadists—has been targeted in extra-judicial killings.
The poorly equipped volunteers, who often fight alongside ethnic-based militias, are both perpetrators and victims of the mounting violence; they are accused of abuses but are also easy targets for the battle-hardened jihadists. In August, the government “fiercely condemned” hate speech spread on social media that described all Fulani as “terrorists”—even though they are also often the victims of jihadist attacks.
From The New Humanitarian, Oct. 28