When the mutinous soldiers removed the government last January in Burkina Faso, they pledged to end the country’s crippling security crisis, a task that they claimed elected officials failed to execute.
The man who led the coup, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, justified the takeover by saying there was a need to “fight for (the country’s) territorial integrity, its recovery and its sovereignty”.
And when the 41-year-old Damiba was sworn in as head of state, he reshuffled the army command to tackle the crisis. But he also encouraged local communities to build dialogue with armed groups as part of a peacemaking process to convince the fighters to put down their arms.
But the violence has worsened under military rule.
Since the military takeover in January, the number of attacks has increased by more than 23 percent, compared with five months before the coup, according to the conflict monitoring group, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).
In the latest episode of gruesome violence, at least 100 people were killed in the northern border village of Seytenga last month – survivors said the assailants moved unhampered from home to home, slaughtering inhabitants and torching shops.
It was the second-worst death toll since the violence unleashed by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) began to spill over from neighbouring Mali in 2015.
Villagers who escaped the massacre said they became targets a day after security forces pulled out of the area.
“How is it possible that in a key and strategic area terrorists can simply carry out barbaric acts over a period of hours without being disturbed,” Alassane Bala Sakande, who heads the People’s Movementfor Progress (MMP) party, asked the government.
As military battles for territory with the advancing armed groups, state presence was further shrinking in parts of the country.
After talks with the military government in June, former Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou, the mediator, appointed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, said Burkinabe security forces have no control over more than a third of the country.
And that has kept the military government on its toes.
Following the Seytenga attack, it announced the creation of two large military zones and ordered residents in those areas to evacuate. -Aljazeera