Burkina Faso: A terrorist gold mine – by Philipp Sandner (Deutsche Welle – November 17, 2019)


Gold mines in isolated areas of Africa’s Sahel region have become a welcome source of income for terrorists. Recent attacks in Burkina Faso show that security forces in the region are unable to gain the upper hand.

There is a gold rush in Africa’s Sahel region. A number of new mines have been opened there since a vein of gold was discovered in 2012. The Boungou mine in northeastern Burkina Faso, for instance, was opened between 2017 and mid-2018. But the region is also increasingly under threat from Islamists. Last week, at least 39 people were killed in attacks on buses carrying workers to Boungou; another 60 were injured.

Guiro Abdoul Kader was asleep when the attack occurred: “I was sleeping when I heard one of the windows shatter, at the same time I got a bullet in my back and I fell down. My colleague was next to me and he also lay down and he was on top of me.

I told him he didn’t have any cover and that he should come further down. He said he was hit. He told me to do what I could and that he would stay a little higher up and that we were going to pray to God,” as Kader told Reuters news agency.

A gold mine for Islamists

The Boungou mine is operated by SEMAFO, a Canadian mining company. Speaking during a visit to Burkina Faso early last week, CEO Benoit Desormeaux said: “We have been with the Burkinabe people for many years. We want to see, together, how we can continue to collaborate whilst ensuring that we do so in a secure manner.”

Yet that security is now being called into question. In its most recent report, the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, writes that Islamists first took control of gold mines in the Sahel in 2016.

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