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Violence seeps into Burkina Faso

International | Recent large-scale attacks renew terror concerns
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/05/20, 04:10 pm

Traders, shopkeepers, security guards, shoppers, and aid workers endured a weekend of violence in Burkina Faso, a once peaceful West African nation. Three suspected insurgent attacks—two on supply and food convoys and one on a cattle market—left at least 50 people dead on May 29 and 30. Militants targeted one aid team that had just delivered supplies to the Foubé refugee camp in a region that has witnessed several attacks, according to the government.

Officials blamed jihadists, though no group has claimed responsibility. Government spokesman Remis Fulgence Dandjinou cited increased efforts by the army to end the rising violence throughout the country as a possible motivation.

Burkina Faso’s porous borders with Mali and Niger have allowed Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin to thrive in the country. The insurgency has killed more than 900 people, displaced nearly 850,000 others, and left some 2 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

In January, a roadside bomb near the Malian border killed 14 civilians, mostly children. On a Sunday in February, suspected extremists killed 24 people, including a pastor, near the border with Niger. In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch documented 126 attacks and armed threats targeting education professionals and students since 2017, with more than half of the cases in 2019.

In the eastern part of the country, extremists have seized control of at least 20 small gold mines, said Mahamadou Savadogo, a regional analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The insurgents sometimes demand a “protection tax” from nearby communities. Residents also report increasing attacks in western Burkina Faso, which produces most of the nation’s food.

Savadogo said the government is largely absent from many of the regions where insurgent attacks are on the rise: “To fight against the proliferation of terrorist activities and ideology, authorities must profoundly change the relationship that exists between the state and its representatives in the most vulnerable areas.”

Associated Press/Photo by Ng Han Guan (file) Associated Press/Photo by Ng Han Guan (file) Uighur security personnel patrol the Id Kah Mosque in Xinjiang.

Putting China on notice

U.S. lawmakers overcame partisan divisions last week to oppose China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims. The House of Representatives voted 413-1 to pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, and the Senate approved it unanimously. President Donald Trump has said he would “very strongly” consider signing it.

The act would impose sanctions on the Chinese officials responsible for the internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region of China. The U.S. State Department would consider human rights abuses when forming policies toward China and report on violations in Xinjiang. FBI and U.S. intelligence officials also would report on the scope of minority detention in China, as well as domestic efforts to protect Uighurs in the United States from Chinese harassment.

World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa praised the act and encouraged Trump to sign it: “After years of suffering and frustration, the Uighur people need hope.” —Julia A. Seymour

Photo by Rachel Seidu Photo by Rachel Seidu Protesters in Benin City, Nigeria, on Monday

Decrying sexual violence in Nigeria

Nigerians publicly voiced their rage this week over the rape and death of a 22-year-old college freshman. Her case renewed the outcry for tougher action against sexual assault.

Vera Uwaila Omozuwa was studying on the evening of May 27 inside the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Benin City in southern Nigeria. A church security guard later found her there in a pool of blood. She died at a hospital on Saturday. Ufuoma Akpobi, a member of the state’s Association Against Child Sexual and Gender-Based Violence network, told The Guardian that Omozuwa, a member of the church’s choir, had studied there for three years since the area lacked a public library.

The hashtag #justiceforuwa trended on Nigerian social media. On Monday, protesters dressed in black marched to the city’s police station to demand justice. State Gov. Godwin Obaseki tweeted that he ordered the police department to launch an investigation.

Omozuwa’s is just one of several recent cases of sexual violence. On Thursday, local media reported the death of an 18-year-old student who was assaulted in southwestern Oyo state. On Monday, state police officers in northern Jigawa state said they detained 11 men over the repeated assault of a 12-year-old girl. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Jerome Delay (file) Associated Press/Photo by Jerome Delay (file) A health worker at a treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo

New Ebola outbreak recorded

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday confirmed six Ebola cases in the western city of Mbandaka.

Four of the patients died, and two are hospitalized, according to the Ministry of Health. As testing increases in the area, officials anticipate more cases. The disease resurfaced 620 miles from the epicenter of an outbreak that began in August 2018 amid armed clashes and intercommunal unrest.

The outbreak further burdens Congo’s health facilities, which also are treating a measles epidemic, which has killed more than 6,000 people, and COVID-19, which has infected close to 3,800, including more than 80 deaths and 500 recoveries.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.” —O.O.

Persecution renewed

Members of a church in Yugan County, China, wept in late April as the local mayor and other government officials seized the pulpit, cross, and all religious symbols from their building. In the last two months, the Chinese government has renewed pressure on churches in the Jiangxi province as coronavirus lockdowns ease, the religious freedom website Bitter Winter reported.

The Chinese government has targeted congregations of the Three-Self Protestant Movement even though it is the only government-sanctioned Protestant group in the country. About 100,000 of the 1 million people in Yugan County belong to it. Authorities shut down at least 48 churches in the county in late April and ordered multiple churches to remove their crosses. —J.A.S.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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