“Authorities react to Sissoco Embalo’s ECOWAS statement on the perplexing and bursting Karma massacre in Burkina Faso”
The government of Burkina Faso is reeling from the comments made by Umaro Sissoco Embalo as they struggle to come to terms with the execution of almost 150 people in the village of Karma on April 20th. The current president in power of Cédéao and Guinea-Bissau has labeled the massacre as a “genocide,” which has been viewed as a “hasty and peremptory” statement by the Burkinabe authorities. To make matters worse, the Burkinabe army has been accused of being responsible for the killings by the Karma community, which only adds to the confusion and complexity of the situation.
Burkina Faso’s government was left in shock when they saw the tweet made by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo on April 27th. The leader of Guinea-Bissau had condemned “the genocide happening in Karma,” before reaffirming to his followers that “the perpetrators of these killings will be identified and judged by the International Criminal Court.” These bold statements have only exacerbated the tension between the two countries.
In the name of Cédéao
@ecowas_cedeao, I strongly condemn and express my indignation towards the genocide taking place in Burkina-Faso’s Karma region. My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of the victims. May justice be served.
— Umaro Sissoco Embaló (@USEmbalo)
April 27, 2023
In a statement released on the same day, the Cédéao commission reiterated the saying that “targeting communities can be treated as genocide under the provisions of the ICC.” The Burkinabe authorities argue that such a severe qualification of the incident “must be based on an investigation” that’s already open in the Tribunal of the neighboring city of Ouahigouya. They also contend that the Cédéao president’s judicial interference has only complicated the situation.
On April 20th, villagers in Karma were subjected to extrajudicial killings that took place throughout the morning and into the afternoon, lasting from 7:30 am to 2 pm. According to locals from the area, 147 villagers, including 45 children, were killed by attackers identified as members of the 3rd Rapid Intervention Battalion (3rd BIR), a unit of the Defense and Security Forces created by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the current Transition President, at the end of 2022.
Amnesty International has accused the army of the responsibility of the Karma massacre.
Amnesty International hopes that the investigations by the TGI of Ouahigouya will be “conducted impartially and independently.” The organization has denounced the punitive expeditions of the army and its Volunteers for the Defense of the Nation (VDP), with a similar modus operandi to other massacres also attributed to the Burkinabe forces. Ousmane Aly Diallo, a researcher on the Sahel at Amnesty’s West Africa office, notes the precedents.
“In an incident in the Ferme at Ouahigouya, which had been documented by Liberation and AP News, civilians were rounded up at the displaced people’s site on the outskirts of Ouahigouya after an attack against VDP positions by members of armed groups. If one looks at what happened in Nouna on December 30th, 2022, there was a descent into two Peul neighborhoods in Nouna where there were massive arrests, summary executions, and illegal homicides a few hours after an attack on a Dozos position by members of an armed group. The same thing happened in Karma on April 20th. Five days earlier, there was an attack on VDP positions in Aourema, a village near Karma. So, we’re seeing the same modus operandi, where we’re witnessing punitive expeditions by soldiers or Volunteers for the Defense of the Nation, knowing that, despite all of these incidents, no justice has been served to the victims, and impunity continues to reign.”