Burkina Faso Award-winner promises to continue defending rights

Daouda Diallo is constantly threatened by death in conflict-ridden Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso Award-winner promises to continue defending rights

The 39-year old is one of the most vocal human rights defenders in the country. He has documented over 1,000 extrajudicial killings by security force and jihadis since Islamic extremists began a violent campaign within the country six years back.

He has many enemies for this.

Diallo stated to The Associated Press that he denounced the army, jihadis, and local defense fighters. "So all armed actors present a threat to me."

Diallo stated that he has been regularly followed and his home robbed. He also said that he doesn't like to sleep in the same spot for fear of being murdered. He wiped his eyes and said that it was difficult for him, his wife, and their three-year old daughter.

The violence linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State group has risen across the once peaceful West African country. Nearly 5,000 people were killed between 2021 and 2020, almost twice the number of deaths in 2019 and 2018. Rights groups have reported an increase in violence against civilians despite efforts to curb the violence by the military and other organizations.

This difficult situation saw Diallo's efforts to document abuses in Burkina Faso and protect Burkina Faso's rights internationally recognized by the Martin Ennals award. It is a prize bestowed annually by a group of 10 international rights organizations.

Friedhelm Weinberg (one of the award's jurors and executive director at Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems in Geneva) said that Daouda Diallo had investigated and reported serious human rights violations in Burkina Faso, despite threats and in an environment that was incredibly risky.

Diallo stated, "This award is an invitation for us to fight harder, to be more serious about our work and to be more rigorous." "Burkina Faso has been honored, and it's a victory both for me as a human right fighter and for my coworkers who work with us day and night."

Burkina Faso's former government was accused of allowing the military to commit widespread abuses. After a coup last month the military is now directly in control. The country's new President,Lt. While Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba has vowed that his ruling junta would respect human rights, he did not specify the steps that would be taken to investigate allegations of abuse.

Diallo, a pharmacist who became an activist, founded the local rights group Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities in 2019.

Diallo has been fighting for ordinary people's rights for many years. He started as a student leader at university, and later worked for a local advocacy group. He said that nothing can compare to the severe threats he has faced over recent years. His photo has circulated on chat groups for local defense militias, fighters recruited by government to fight alongside the army. He denounced him as an obstruction to extremism and said that he should be killed or arrested.

Diallo's group documents atrocities from all sides. However, he claims that the most egregious abusers are state security forces.

He said that soldiers who are supposed protect the population are often the ones who endanger civilians' lives, which is a huge concern for human rights fighters.

Burkina Faso’s security forces are trying to stop the jihadist insurgency which has killed thousands and displaced 1.5million people. Rights groups and civilians have accused them of atrocities.

Abdoul Kadry Ousmane, the chief of the village, told the AP via phone that 22 people were allegedly murdered and six others kidnapped in January during a government-led ground and air offensive in Yattakou, Sahel's Seno provincial. Ousmane was told by witnesses that the murders were committed by military uniformed men riding motorbikes, cars, and planes. Ousmane said, "The army should not confuse civilians with terrorists."

The allegations cannot be independently verified by the AP.

Unauthorized to speak for Burkina Faso, a spokesman for Burkina Faso’s army said that the military had opened an investigation and that the security forces have always considered human rights a concern. They include it in their training. He said that it was important to remember that none of these accusations has ever been proven.

The junta dismantled the judiciary and parliament, leaving only a handful of institutions to defend basic civil rights.

Corinne Dufka is the director of Human Rights Watch West Africa. She stated that "continuing abuses by all parties, including unlawful killings and kidnappings, illuminates the crucial importance to independent and credible voices monitor, document, and report on these as the conflict spreads"

Diallo promises to continue his work.

"Burkina Faso goes through a very difficult time. It's in crisis, and it's being attacked," Diallo said. I invite all Burkinabes, partners and friends of Burkina Faso (human rights defenders), to support their efforts to protect civilians. My dream is to see a country where human rights are respected and prosperity is shared.

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