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Africa

'Trial by fire' for new Burkina Faso leaders after attack

Burkina Faso and Mali will need to work together to counter the growing threat of Islamic militants following two deadly attacks in the region says one analyst.

Al Qaeda militants attacked a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou on Friday and killed 28 people mostly foreigners from at least seven countries. To analyze developments following the attack DW spoke to Imad Mesdoua, political risk analyst for North and West Africa at Africa Matters.

DW: To what extent could the cooperation between Burkina Faso and Mali counter threats of terrorist attacks?

Imad Mesdoua: Well I think it is an important and necessary first step. One of the key problems countries in the region have faced in the past few years in dealing with the terrorist threat has been cooperating at a security level. Although there are a lot of entities that have been set up - such as the SEMOC or the G5 in the Sahel - that have tried to put into place this military cooperation, none of them have been truly affective as is required to fight the necessary threat.

It remains to be seen what the details of the cooperation will be like but it is important that there is political will backing the military efforts to cooperate.

The Ouagadougou attacks come almost two months after the attack in Mali which targeted foreigners. What could be the reasons why the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants are targeting foreigners in West Africa?

A lot of that has to do with the organization trying to ramp up its profile in the region both from a media and an operational point of view. There is to a certain extent some element of competition with the “Islamic State” because that organization is growing in strength in North Africa and Libya but also in West Africa and Nigeria. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is trying to grow and cement its position in the Sahel so that it doesn't lose its followers.

Do the two West African nations have the capacity to fight terrorism?

Well yes and no. Certainly there is some expertise given the experience they have. Mali has dealt with a terrorism threat for a few years but its military has not been up to scratch in terms of the capacity that it does have.

As you remember, the central state of Mali was almost overrun by jihadists coming from the north and that Mali required assistance from the French with Operation Serval. In Burkina Faso the capacity is not all too dissimilar. It may be a little better because they have a better-organized military. The financial means to deal with a constant terrorist threat are not there and neither is the know-how.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore is under pressure only two months into his presidency

What has kept the county safe for so long were the connection that the previous president, Blaise Compaore who was overthrown in a revolution. He had connections through third parties and intermediaries with some of the terrorist groups in the region. As a result of him playing the role of the mediator, he was able to keep them from attacking Burkina Faso.

What does the Friday attack mean politically for Burkina Faso and President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who is only two months into office?

Well I think it is a very testing time for President Kabore and for his new prime minister and his newly-appointed cabinet. It has certainly been a baptism of fire for them as they have had to deal with a major security threat. Their primary challenge is to ensure that the terrorist threat and terrorist are unable to destabilize the state, its unity, its institutions and its people.

Imad Mesdoua, political risk analyst for North and West Africa at Africa Matters

Interview: Eunice Wanjiru

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