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Understanding Africa’s terrorism debacle: a critical analysis of counterterrorism in Burkina Faso

AfricaRegionsCountering Violent Extremism (CVE)


Despite Burkina Faso’s emergence as a strong player in terrorism activity in Africa, the country is practically overlooked by Critical Terrorism Studies scholarship. This article is framed at the intersection of Critical Terrorism Studies and Postcolonialism, investigating how a “critical” examination of the terrorism situation in Burkina Faso could advance our knowledge of terrorism in Africa. In-depth interviews were conducted with senior military officers and security practitioners in and out of Burkina Faso. These interviews, together with political speeches and media reports, were analysed using Critical Discourse Analysis. The study found a bifurcated counterterrorism policy in Burkina Faso with overdependence on “sticks” approaches, yet without the funds or morale to implement them. This is, however, not unique to Burkina Faso, as countries like Nigeria and Kenya have also struggled with the ineffective use of force to tackle terrorism violence. The article argues that the Western-centric post-9/11 global discourse on terrorism transposed and patronised a kind of uncritical terrorism knowledge to African spaces, effectively contributing to the lack of progress in addressing the incessant violence. It recommends to African policy makers to rethink counterterrorism from African philosophical standpoints, view preponderant terrorism knowledge more critically, and adopt context-specific measures against terrorism violence.

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