Expatriates in the mining and NGO sectors in Burkino Faso are highly exposed to risks of kidnap and collateral harm by Islamist groups in northern Mali, the Africa Forecasting division of London-based Exclusive Analysis has concluded.
On Sept. 26, the Minister of Territorial Administration and Security warned of kidnap risks for western NGO workers in the northern provinces of Burkina Faso. A week prior to that, Exclusive Analysis received credible reporting of likely attacks by Islamist groups in northern Burkina Faso, probably aimed at kidnapping expatriates in the mining sector.
Gold miners and exploration companies operating in Burkino Faso include Avocet Mining, Canyon Resources, Carbine Resources, Golden Rim Resources, Gryphon Minerals, Harmattan Gold, Middle Island Resources, Mt. Isa Metals, Orezone Gold, Riverstone Resources, Sarama Resources, Semafo and Vital Metals.
Burkina Faso is highly likely to be among countries on target for opportunistic, pre-emptive or retaliatory attacks by Islamist groups occupying northern Mali, given Burkina Faso's support for what is likely to be imminent Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) military intervention in Mali. In case of attacks by Islamist groups, notably al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), expatriates in the NGOs and mining sector are at high risk of kidnap and collateral harm.
The risk of kidnap and targeted attack by Islamist groups rose in the wake of the occupation of major towns (Gao, Kidal and Timbuctu) in northern Mali. In August 2012, Mujao moved further south to capture the town of Douentza, close to the northern border of Burkina Faso, where there are NGOs and mining activities. Mujao is likely to use its base in Gao and Douentza to carry out cross-border attacks into Burkina Faso. At present, Mujao is holding three Algerian diplomats hostage from the seven abducted in Gao in April 2012. Three Algerians were released in July 2012 and one was reportedly executed.
AQIM have carried out two attacks in Niger, one in the capital Niamey in October 2010 when two French nationals were abducted. The other took place in January 2011 in the north; seven expatriates working for French firms Areva and Sogea-Satom were kidnapped.
Unlike neighboring Niger, Burkina Faso has not yet recorded any incidents of kidnap. However, in July 2010, the United States Embassy there evacuated a number of US nationals, predominantly Peace Corps volunteers, from the north following the report of a planned attack against US and western nationals around Ouahigouya.
Foreign aid workers and mining personnel travelling by road in Burkina Faso, especially on the Djibo-Dori route in the north, are highly exposed to risk of kidnap. Mining sites lacking their own security personnel or perimeter fence are at severe risk.
Natznet Tesfay is head of Africa forecasting at Exclusive Analysis. She specializes in risks to the extractive and infrastructure industries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as piracy risks in the Gulf of Aden/Gulf of Guinea. Natznet received an MSc in Urbanization and Development from the London School of Economics, and a BA in Government and African Studies from Harvard University.