From DW Documentary.
In Burkina Faso, about a third of the country has no police or army presence whatsoever. To fill the vacuum, armed militias have moved in. One of the largest of these militias, known as the Koglweogo, is some 40,000 members strong.
The Koglweogo militia’s stated goal is to protect the public from criminals, ensuring a degree of law and order in the absence of a professional police force. Indeed, they arrest shoplifters, cattle rustlers and burglars. They also organize trials, acting as both prosecutor and judge. And they carry out violent punishments in public – beating those they have found guilty with batons, or whipping them in the village square.
Most people say they respect the militia. But off the record, some complain of the brutal and arbitrary nature of their vigilante justice. Experts warn that powerful warlord groups are emerging in Burkina Faso. Still, most locals continue to support the militias.
There is a good reason for this: In Burkina Faso’s north, jihadist militants have started attacking villages. They’ve killed nearly 1600 people so far, and displaced more than a million others. Burkina Faso’s weak state government lacks the resources needed to fight the jihadists. The Koglweogo, on the other hand, do everything in their power to stand up to the jihadists.
But even the powerful Koglweogo are often no match for the well-armed militants. Now, Burkina Faso’s government is recruiting fighters from the ranks of militias like the Koglweogo to help government troops hold off the Islamists. But even with their help, it’s a fight that will be hard to win.
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