Customary Characters in Uncustomary Circumstances: The Case of Burkina Faso’s Centre-Nord Region

Thomas Caulier, Fransje Molenaar 2 Mar 2022
 
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Across the Sahel, customary leaders such as village chiefs are increasingly targeted by violent extremist organizations (VEOs) – a dynamic similarly at play in Burkina Faso’s Centre-Nord region. This report analyzes the roles of customary authorities in municipal governance and highlights their contributions to community resilience. In particular, it dissects their contributions to community resilience against violent extremism, highlighting their agency even where under threat. In a comparison between six Sahelian border regions of the Liptako-Gourma, we find that Centre-Nord is the region in our study that scores best on general
community resilience. It also scores comparatively well on several other indicators. Notably, respondents in Centre-Nord overwhelmingly feel that their customary authorities serve their communities’ interests rather than their own. As a consequence, customary leaders are endowed with high levels of trust and their roles in both conflict resolution efforts and security measures are perceived to be positive. To better understand why traditional and religious authorities do so well in the Centre-Nord region, this report delves further into more than 120 key informant interviews (KIIs) and 250 surveys collected in five municipalities: Kaya (CentreNord’s capital), Boulsa, Pissila, Mané, and Kongoussi.

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