Burkina Faso Prime Minister Christophe Dabire on Thursday floated the idea of negotiations with jihadist groups, an idea rejected until now by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Kabore, who began his second term as president a month ago, and Dabire are facing a bloody campaign waged by jihadist groups who entered Burkina Faso in 2015 from neighboring Mali.
“All great wars have ended around a table,” Dabire said in a speech to parliament about general government policy. “That means that if we want to get out of this situation, sooner or later we must reflect on the possibility (…) that we may eventually undertake discussions,” he added.
“We are not saying that Burkina Faso is against negotiations with terrorists, because even great countries… have reached a moment or other where they sit around a table with terrorists,” Dabire said. But he added: “The terrorists and their mentors are not always clearly identified.”
An extremely poor country in the Sahel, Burkina Faso is suffering its worst period since independence in 1960, caught in a five-year spiral of jihadist and sectarian violence.
This country, which shares a border with Mali and Niger, has since 2015 been the scene of regular attacks by jihadists.
At least 1,200 people have been killed and a million of Burkina’s population of 20.5 million have fled their homes. Swathes of the country are out of the government’s control.
The response has been a mililtary one.
An anti-jihadist militia called the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland was set up in November 2019 to buttress the country’s poorly equipped and trained armed forces.
Most of the political class has backed the military approach but during the presidential election campaign in November most of the candidates made a U-turn, calling for negotiations with armed groups.
Nonetheless, President Kabore has frequently ruled out any idea of negotiations with those he says aim to tear Burkina Faso apart and undermine unity.