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Burkina Faso: Civil society concerned after cases of "forced recruitment

Burkina Faso: Civil society concerned after cases of "forced recruitment
Military personnel stand in front of the country's defence force headquarters ...   -  
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Burkina Faso

A group of civil society organisations in Burkina Faso have expressed concern over cases of "abduction" and "forced recruitment" of citizens as army auxiliaries in the fight against jihadism, and denounced the "recurrent and systematic denial of freedom of opinion".

The Burkinabe Movement for Human and Peoples' Rights (MBDHP) "learned with dismay of the kidnapping and forced enlistment of Boukaré Ouédraogo, president of the "Appel de Kaya" movement, as a VDP. (Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, civilian auxiliaries to the army)", which occurred on 22 March, the organisation wrote in a statement sent to AFP on Wednesday.

Another organisation, the Collective against Impunity and Stigmatisation of Communities (CISC), confirmed the abduction and recruitment in a separate statement.

According to the MBDHP, Ouedraogo went last Wednesday "to the residence of the governor of the Centre-North to meet the transitional president Ibrahim Traoré", who was visiting Kaya, the capital of the region, the MBDHP explained, citing witnesses.

For the CISC, the arrest of Boukaré Ouédraogo is linked to a press conference a few days earlier where he had questioned President Traoré, who came to power in a putsch at the end of September, about the security situation in the region.

The two organisations denounced an "arbitrary arrest" and called for the immediate release of Mr Ouedraogo while deploring the "current trend of recurrent and systematic denial of citizens' freedom of opinion and expression".

On Saturday, during a meeting with citizens of Kaya, Captain Ibrahim Traoré admitted having ordered the enlistment of a citizen - without naming him -, accusing him of having divulged information that led to the attack on a "nerve centre" near the town that left at least fourteen dead, including four soldiers.

"By their (his) fault, men fell. We made him understand and we hired him immediately to be a PMV. And so it will be with all those who are not capable of defending the country," he said to the cheers of the audience.

According to other civil society organisations, on Saturday, two of their representatives were also arrested and registered as VDPs after criticising the management of the transition at a press conference.

Since 2015, Burkina has been caught in a spiral of violence perpetrated by jihadist groups linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, which has left a total of 10,000 civilians and soldiers dead, according to NGOs, and some two million displaced.

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