Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD today expressed concern over reports of abuses by government troops in Burkina Faso.
Allegations against government forces in the African state include extrajudicial torture, detentions and killings.
Teachta Brady said:
“The government in Burkina Faso are engaged in a campaign to suppress jihadist terrorists. Like its neighbouring states, Niger, Mali and other countries of the Sahel region, ill- equipped and badly trained soldiers are battling determined Islamic terror groups. These groups are in many instances better armed than the government troops they face. The response of the government forces is often indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.
“Vast caches of weapons, including heavy ordinance, secreted by the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the Sothern Libyan area of the Sahel region have fallen into the hands of extremists. It was the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011 led to the total destabilisation of the Sahel region.
“As attacks by Islamic extremists increase in the area, the level of abuses by government forces also rise. Indeed, the scale of violence of terrorist violence was a major contributory factor in the recent coup in Mali, which saw military forces remove the sitting President of Mali from office.
“The overall chaos and violence throughout the Sahel region is a reflection of the failure of the security response to the situation in the Sahel. Although there is a UN force in the area since 2013, 80% of its logistical force is spent protecting its infrastructure. The UN mission to Mali is one of, if not the deadliest in the history of the organisation, with over 200 UN troops losing their lives to date.
“The UN force is augmented by an EU security force in Mali, spearheaded by France. The Irish Army Ranger Wing has played a role in training local defence forces here also.
“The violence perpetrated by government forces is a major contributory factor in the flow of recruits to the Jihadist forces. The lack of governance that breeds widespread corruption in the area is another major contributor.
“The widespread poverty in the Sahel region, which in many instances provided the catalyst for local recruits to join the Salafist groupings, often just for food, belies the wealth of the region. Since the 1990s, US energy companies have spent over $2 trillion in Africa. Mali has significant oil, gas and uranium deposits. Not to mention that it is Africa’s third largest Gold producer.
“But widespread corruption ensures that the vast majority of the citizenry of the country have to endure abject poverty. Security and counter-terrorism responses are short term answers. I fully support the need to stabilise Mali, and the wider Sahel. The political leaders who have were imprisoned during the coup must be released immediately, and the constitution restored.
“The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at the behest of France and Niger. This follows the failure of a mediation team from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to make progress on talks to secure a transition back to civilian rule in Mali yesterday.
“As an incoming member of the UN Security Council, a country free of the baggage of a colonial past and with a record of participation in peace keeping missions throughout the world, the government must ensure that the voice of Ireland is heard in the international arena. Security responses only serve to address immediate concerns. The long-term solution to the problems in the Sahel involves taking measures to address poverty, to address hunger, to address corruption. An emphasis on nation building, as opposed to the training and outfitting of forces with records of human rights abuses is the way forward.”