BBC reports that following the killing of over 60 people and displacement of over 500000 people in January, the Burkina Faso Parliament has passed a law for the Burkinabe Government to arm the country’s civilians who will be coordinated by the military.
Who will be armed?
According to the new law, any civilian aged 18 or above can apply for recruitment and there is no maximum age. But recruits cannot belong to any political party.
Volunteers must be “patriotic and loyal” and must have a “spirit of sacrifice”.
The law mandates that a minimum of 10 volunteers be recruited in each village or residential area.
The chosen volunteers from each village/area will be given 2 weeks of training. The law says they must be taught how to handle weapons, basic fighting skills, the rules of discipline and civic education and moral instruction.
After this training, the BBC reports, the volunteers will be given weapons, communication and observation gadgets. But they will not get uniforms as that is reserved for the armed forces.
Although they will not be paid salaries, the groups will receive financial support from the state for instruments and other mission-related expenses.
Also, their hospital bills will be paid if they are wounded. And they will also be paid compensation if they are left with permanent injuries. If they die in action, their funeral will be sponsored by the government.
Nationally, the Burkina Faso Ministry of Defence will oversee the work of the civilian force, but locally the traditional rulers will be in charge.
What is the mission of the armed civilians?
The Burkinabe law states that they are expected to be available at all times in their village.
Also, they are to support the work of the army and police force, to help secure their village or district.
The law states that this could involve conducting surveillance and providing intelligence to the army. But they are forbidden from conducting police activities.
The volunteers are also expected to abide by a code of conduct, but for now this code of conduct has not been made public.
There have been expressed fears that the arming of civilians could lead to abuse, but the passage of the law shows that there is serious political will to make it a reality.