Home Civilian based defense Atrocity Alert #313: Mali and Burkina Faso, Cameroon and World Humanitarian Day – Burkina Faso

Atrocity Alert #313: Mali and Burkina Faso, Cameroon and World Humanitarian Day – Burkina Faso


Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication from the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect that highlights situations where people are at risk of or suffer mass atrocities.


Since the beginning of 2022, attacks by armed Islamist groups in Mali and Burkina Faso as well as human rights violations and abuses by national defense and security forces have increased significantly. People in Mali and Burkina Faso have faced months of escalating violence, with nearly 2,000 civilians killed so far this year. The actual figure is likely higher given the lack of reliable media coverage, the remote and rural locations of the attacks, and people’s fear of speaking out. Despite this, 2022 is on track to be the deadliest year since the start of the crisis in the central Sahel. The United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali documented 1,304 human rights violations and abuses between January 1 and June 30, representing a 47% increase over the previous six-month period.

Faced with the growing and persistent threat from Islamist armed groups, the Burkinabé and Malian defense and security forces have intensified their counter-terrorism operations. However, these forces have regularly perpetrated serious human rights abuses and violations against civilians – mainly ethnic Fulani or Fulani – whom they suspect of supporting armed Islamist groups. Following a visit to the country in August, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Alioune Tine, said: “I was particularly shocked to see with my own eyes victims with visible signs on their bodies of atrocious, cruel and barbaric acts. torture they suffered at the hands of the Malian security forces. Their testimonies were unbearable.

In neighboring Burkina Faso, two human rights organizations recently reported that more than 40 people – almost all Fulani – were killed by suspected Defense and Security Forces (FDS) soldiers. According to eyewitness accounts, the victims were abducted from the northern village of Taffogo and then summarily executed on the road to Bouroum. The Observatory of Human Dignity said that the SDF had “taken up the fight against terrorism by simply exterminating the villages occupied by a certain community”. Government spokesman Lionel Bilgo dismissed the claims, saying the military had launched an investigation.

Burkinabe and Malian defense and security forces must conduct all military operations in strict compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, ensuring that counter-terrorism objectives do not negate the protections universal human rights. The Burkinabé and Malian transitional authorities must guarantee victims fair and effective remedies. Ending the culture of impunity for abuses committed by state forces can play a crucial role in countering the spread of violent extremism.


Populations in the English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon remain at risk of atrocities amid ongoing clashes between government forces and armed separatist groups. On August 11, Human Rights Watch reported that between April 24 and June 12, 2022, at least 10 people were summarily killed by Cameroonian security forces during military operations against armed separatist groups. During the operations, soldiers burned houses and destroyed and looted health facilities and shops. Armed separatists carried out serious human rights abuses during the same period, including killing and abducting civilians. The separatists have also continued their attack on education, targeting students, teachers and schools. Human Rights Watch has documented that at least 33 students and five teachers have been abducted by armed separatists since January.

People in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have faced widespread violence since tensions over cultural rights and the marginalization of Anglophone populations escalated in October 2016. In the resulting clashes, government forces and armed separatist groups have committed serious violations and abuses that may amount to atrocities, including extrajudicial executions. , kidnappings and torture. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 6,000 civilians have been killed and at least 666,000 displaced. Few perpetrators have been held responsible.

Since 2021, the government has intensified its attacks on armed separatist strongholds in an attempt to end the conflict. During military operations, government forces have regularly targeted civilian populations for their alleged cooperation with separatist groups. Armed separatists retaliated using more lethal weapons, including improvised explosive devices and anti-tank rocket launchers, putting civilians at increased risk. Separatist groups have also expanded their sources of income through kidnapping and extortion in the northwest and southwest. Civilians are also at risk of targeted attacks by armed separatists because of their alleged collaboration with the government.

Juliette Paauwe, Cameroon expert at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said that “despite the escalation of violence, the international community has failed to respond adequately to years of deadly conflict in Cameroon. Although long overdue, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must help establish a comprehensive ceasefire to address the growing risks of atrocities facing faced by civilian populations in the English-speaking regions. The AU and UNSC should also facilitate an inclusive dialogue between the government, separatist groups and Anglophone communities, mediated by a neutral actor in neutral territory. Security forces must end all extrajudicial executions of unarmed civilians and ensure that the human rights of all Cameroonians are equally protected, regardless of their cultural identity. Armed separatist groups must also end attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.


This Friday, August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day, which pays tribute to aid workers who risk their lives to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. The theme for this year’s World Humanitarian Day is #ItTakesAVillage, focusing on how aid workers come together in a collective effort to alleviate dire needs. Ahead of the commemoration, Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high and aid workers are working in increasingly dangerous environments.

The Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) documented 268 attacks on aid workers last year that left 203 aid workers seriously injured, 117 abducted and 141 killed – the highest number of deaths recorded since 2013. Small arms and shootings caused the most deaths, with airstrikes and bombings being the second leading cause of death. AWSD reported that such casualties are expected to increase significantly in 2022 as rocket attacks and indiscriminate bombings in Ukraine continue to threaten civilians and aid workers.

South Sudan remained at the top of the ten “most violent contexts” for aid workers, followed by Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar (Burma), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Nigeria. Christine Caldera, research analyst at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said: “It is no coincidence that the most violent contexts for aid workers are also situations where we see widespread disregard for international law. and the commission of mass atrocities.*” *The denial of humanitarian access to civilians and deliberate attacks on humanitarian workers may constitute a war crime or a crime against humanity under international humanitarian law (IHL ) and are often linked to attempts to perpetrate other mass atrocities against vulnerable populations.

For the first time in 24 years, Ethiopia has been listed in AWSD’s top five “highest incident settings”, where fighting and widespread violations of IHL, including the systematic destruction of food, water and health systems, as well as the blockades, attacks and looting of humanitarian convoys, have caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the regions of Afar, Amhara and Tigray. A months-long “de facto aid blockade” imposed by the federal government in Tigray has prevented the delivery of essential supplies to starving and vulnerable civilians. In 2021, UN officials claimed that access to food was being used as a weapon of war in Ethiopia.

Life-saving humanitarian assistance can mean the difference between survival and death for millions of people around the world. With at least 100 million people forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, the work of humanitarian organizations has never been more important. Civilians caught up in conflict and those caring for them must be protected.