Possible longer term effects of Splendid attack

It looks like the Splendid Hotel and Cafe Cappuccino attack of January 15 2016 evening in Ouagadougou was an AQIM-organized attack, with the possibly declared purpose of attacking France, which leads operations against AQIM in northern Africa and the Sahel.  The similar November 2015 attack on the Radisson Bleu Hotel in Bamako suggests that AQIM may be moving to a strategy similar to that of other armed groups in North Africa and the Middle East: regular attacks on high-profile civic-security targets.  The elites of French West Africa organize and run the security apparatuses.  The people meeting and eating and staying at a hotel like Splendid, and cafes like Cappuccino, are basically one or two degrees of separation from the power elite.  There are a dozen targets like these in Ouagadougou.

So in the short run there will be all the usual stuff: construction of barriers and walls and hiring of security personnel in Ouagadougou; tightening of border with Mali and Niger, and increase in security forces in northern Burkina; even more military cooperation with France and USA and even more “pre-deployment” of French and American military personnel and equipment so they can carry out joint operations with Burkinabè forces; self-censorship by Muslim religious leaders, who are quite well-aligned with the government anyone, but now presumably less likely to assert their interests openly (Burkina Faso has an extremely powerful Catholic and Protestant elite that dominates government and formal business); tension between the media/press (which will want to write about how the security forces “let” the attack happen) and the security apparatus (which will want to shut down criticism); weird stuff with Compaoré and Diéndéré (who of course have serious contacts and background with AQIM forces as the hosts of the peace negotiations and negotiators over the years for hostage releases and all kinds of other possible ties like arms dealing, money transfer… lots of allegations).

In the longer run, harder to predict what the fallout from the attack might be.  Both Pres. Roch Kaboré and Assembly Speaker Salif Diallo have emerged from the Compaoré regime, so a top-down authoritarian impulse flows in their veins.  Their reflex may not be that the best defense against a hardy and committed terrorist group is to encourage an even more open society, with more debate, more free press, more rule of law.  What they do with Diéndéré will be a test, I think.  Do they put him on a speedy, open trial, and let all kinds of nasty truths come out in the testimony?  Or do they postpone, gradually re-incorporating Diéndéré and his team?  More broadly, their choices will be shaped by donors and France and USA.  They might pour money into an expanded security apparatus, rather than into the kinds of longer term development oriented investments that would make Burkinabè economic growth more inclusive and less vulnerable.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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