BURKINA FASO: Violence between nomads and farmers kills fifteen

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Clashes between nomads and farmers in Poni and Bougouriba provinces in southwestern Burkina Faso have left fifteen dead since 25 May according to Simplice Détouré Dah, an official of the Burkina Faso human rights organisation MBDHP.

Eight people are estimated to have been killed over the weekend (7-8 June), bringing the total estimated number of dead to fifteen, although a local source told IRIN he thought the figures were higher.

The minister of internal affairs Clément Sawadogo said on Burkina Faso National Radio on 9 June, “It is a macabre affair, it is unacceptable and we are now working to stop it immediately by all means.”

The latest round of violence was sparked by the death of two farmers who were being held in police custody in the village of Tiankoura in Bougouriba province. The two were being held on suspicion of involvement in earlier clashes with nomads in June. The details of their deaths are unknown.

As news of their deaths spread, local farmers took revenge out on nomadic populations nearby.

According to Dah, the clashes started on 25 May in the village of Perkoura in Poni province when nomadic herders brought their animals to graze on farmers’ land and spread across the region, reaching Tinakoura last week.

Sawadogo and security minister Assane Sawadogo visited Bougouriba province over the weekend to try to ease tension between the two groups.

“We have sent a message of peace to [encourage both sides to] bury the hatchet and to trust us in seeking ways to repair the wrongs and [address] the situation,” Clément Sawadogo added.

According to Dah clashes between pastoralists and farmers are a recurring problem in Burkina Faso, but, he added, “The violence has reached unprecedented levels this time.”

He criticised the government’s handling of the crisis. “The authorities should have acted earlier to prevent the spreading of the clashes…we ask them to come up with a lasting solution this time.”

And he called on the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation of the violence, including the killings of the two men on 6 June. “As long as there is impunity for crimes committed, such revenge responses will continue because each population will feel that the other is privileged.”

According to local sources, following the violence 15 people are being held in police custody at Diebougou, the capital of Bougouriba, 372 km southwest of Ouagadougou, though some say up to 50 detainees are also being held in Gaoua, the capital of Poni province, 390 km from the country's capital.

In August 2007 a similar clash at Gogo, a village in Zoumweogo province left four dead and 70 wounded, displacing 3,000 others and leading to hundreds of houses to be destroyed.
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org