AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - The population flees the Boucle du Mouhoun region, where Father Zerbo was murdered

Thursday, 5 January 2023 missionaries killed   displaced persons   armed groups   jihadists  

Ouagadougou (Agenzia Fides) - In the area where Fr. Jacques Yaro Zerbo was assassinated on January 2 (see Fides, 3/1/2023), the local population is fleeing. In particular, since January 3, the inhabitants of the rural municipality of Gassan, located in the province of Nayala, in the Boucle du Mouhoun region, have been ordered to leave by armed groups that are wreaking havoc on the area, finding refuge in Dédougou.
According to testimonies from some displaced persons, on the morning of January 3, armed men appeared before the town's imam to tell him that they were giving the population twenty-four hours to leave the town.
The jihadists of the Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) operate in the area, but there are also self-defense groups, created to oppose the jihadists, who in turn are accused of serious acts of violence against local populations, according to the local NGO Collectif contre l'Impunité et la Stigmatization des Communautés (CISC).
CISC accuses in particular the Volontaires pour la défense de la patrie (VDP) in relation to the massacre of at least 28 civilians killed in the night between Friday 30 December and Saturday 31 December, in "retaliation" after a "terrorist" attack in the city of Nouna (see Fides, 3/1/2023).
The recruitment campaign of 50,000 volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), launched in October 2022 by the authorities after the coup on September 30, 2022, ended on November 18 with the acceptance of 90,000 applications. After a two-week training period, the volunteers join the support groups of the regular armed forces. A procedure that raises doubts for independent experts about the degree of reliability of these militiamen and their respect for human rights. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 5/1/2023)