Country Report on Terrorism 2015 - Chapter 2 - Burkina Faso

Overview: After a year of political transition following the 2014 popular uprising that pushed Burkina Faso’s longtime president Blaise Compaore from power, Burkina Faso held presidential and legislative elections on November 29, 2015. The new president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, sworn in on December 29, stated that security and counterterrorism were top priorities for his government.

Burkina Faso faced four terrorist attacks in 2015, including kidnapping for ransom. This was a marked departure from previous years when Burkina Faso experienced no terrorist incidents. These cases remained under investigation at the end of the year.

Burkina Faso’s willingness to engage in regional counterterrorism and stability operations was facilitated by assistance provided to its security forces through the Department of State’s Africa Peacekeeping Program (AFRICAP) II, Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) contracts, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 2282 funding initiatives. Bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation increased. The United States supported USAFRICOM’s FY 2015 proposals to augment and build upon Burkina Faso’s Gendarmerie Border Security and Counterterrorism Company capabilities. U.S. support worked to directly develop Burkina Faso’s counterterrorism capabilities to contain, disrupt, degrade, and defeat terrorist organizations.

The long-term sustainability and effectiveness of all counterterrorism units was severely hampered by logistical and professional shortfalls in the Burkinabe military. In 2015, U.S. funding supported the establishment of a 150-person counterterrorism logistics company. The company helped to address maintenance shortfalls within the country’s counterterrorism forces. Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment, which launched an attempted coup d’etat in September and was immediately dissolved after, reportedly abused civilians. The most significant of these reported abuses included killing civilians and violently harassing journalists and members of civil society.

Burkina Faso relies on the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) to conduct traveler screening and watchlisting. The country is also engaged with the International Organization of Migration to provide limited traveler screening at select border control points.

2015 Terrorist Incidents: According to local police sources, Burkina Faso endured four significant incidents believed to be terrorist-related or perpetrated:

  • A Romanian national was kidnapped near the Tambao manganese mining site in April, reportedly by the terrorist group al Murabitoun.
  • Two cross-border attacks on gendarmerie outposts, one in Oursi in August, that resulted in one death, and one in Samorogouan in October, which resulted in three deaths.
  • A complex attack in November on a gold convoy, near Djibo, involving IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms. The attack resulted in one death.

Investigations of these incidents were ongoing at year’s end.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Burkina Faso’s counterterrorism strategy involves deploying the counterterrorist task force to the north of the country, establishing new police and military counterterrorism units, strengthening intelligence collection, building new border control stations, and increasing the size of the gendarmerie and police force. In accordance with the strategy, the government deployed a joint Army-Gendarmerie counterterrorism task force known as the Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT) to the north in January 2013. Due to multiple peacekeeping operation deployments, this force, originally projected to possess 1,000 troops, had 500 troops in 2015. Burkinabe security and law enforcement officials continued to cite border security as a major area of concern. Due to political unrest, some Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) programming was delayed in 2015.

Burkina Faso law enforcement officials actively sought training from the United States and other countries. Recent U.S. assistance included workshops on cross-border security, criminal investigation techniques, and prosecutorial skills training, often under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ). For example, representatives from Burkina Faso participated in two courses developed by the Global Center for Cooperative Security and conducted at the IIJ focusing on non-coercive interviewing and interrogation techniques and the use and protection of intelligence-derived information in rule of law-based investigations and prosecutions.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Burkina Faso is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a Financial Action Task Force-style body that is part of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Its financial intelligence unit, Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières, (CENTIF), is composed of magistrates, police, gendarmerie, and financial experts under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and is a member of the Egmont Group. 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 had the will to improve its ability to counter terrorism financing, it lacked the necessary resources and experience. In 2015, Burkina Faso worked on developing a special court for terrorism financing. CENTIF reported that between January 1 and November 26, a total of 68 Suspicious Transaction Reports were filed, and 17 individuals were being prosecuted for money laundering or other financial crimes, including three new cases in 2015. It can take years for criminal cases in Burkina Faso to reach a conclusion, however, and there were no convictions in 2015. While Burkina Faso has many of the laws and regulations required for an anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism regime, other laws and customs make implementing these difficult. For example, 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.

There were no reports of inappropriate use of regulations to target political appointments. However, in late September 2015, the government froze the assets of 14 individuals and four political parties suspected of involvement in the failed coup, which took place earlier that same month.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Burkina Faso did not have any formal programs to counter violent extremism. However, several international organizations funded vocational training and economic development programs designed to provide positive alternatives for populations vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment into terrorist organizations.

International and Regional Cooperation: Burkina Faso was active in regional organizations and international bodies, as demonstrated by increased collaboration with the UN on counterterrorism matters and its active participation in international fora, such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Sahel Working Group. During an event of this working group, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Territorial Administration and Security presented the country’s strategic counterterrorism plan. Burkina Faso was a member of the TSCTP, was active in ECOWAS, and is a member of the G-5 Sahel group that was created in February 2014.