This landlocked West African country has been the scene of several deadly attacks by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Burkina Faso, demanding a firmer response to the growing bloodshed after a massacre last month killed more than 130 people.
Some had traveled hundreds of kilometers to attend the opposition-led protest in the capital, Ouagadougou, where protesters waved the red and green Burkinabe flag and whistled on Saturday.
Armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIL) originally based in neighboring Mali have established themselves in the north and east of the country, launching regular attacks against civilians.
“We had to show our discontent, show the plight of citizens who cry for security and peace,” said Alpha Yago, an opposition supporter, on the sidelines of the demonstration.
A protester was holding a sign with a photo of flag-draped coffins and the slogan: “Mr. President, have the courage to decide. We are fed up! “
It was the first march organized by opposition and civil society groups since President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was reelected last year.
Kaboré had asked the organizers to postpone the march. But opposition leader Eddie Komboigo welcomed “a huge mobilization across the country despite government calls for a boycott.”
“Today, from Dori to Kampti, from Dedougou to Diebougou, from Ouagadougou to Diapaga, people demonstrated to protest against the worsening security situation,” he said.
“During Kaboré’s first term, there were officially more than 1,300 dead and 1.2 million internally displaced persons,” he added.
“We fear that the second term will be worse than the first because since the start of the year we have had more than 300 deaths.”
Anger has been mounting since the night of June 4, when the deadliest attack over the years has been carried out on the village of Solhan.
Armed men – including “young people between the ages of 12 and 14,” authorities said – killed at least 132 people, according to the government.
Local sources said the death toll was 160, including many children.
Civil society figure Aristide Ouedraogo declared that “in light of the latest macabre developments on the security front, it was time to send a strong signal to the leaders to pull themselves together”.
Chukwuemeka Eze, executive director of the West African Peacebuilding Network, said many Burkinabes had lost confidence in the government.
“Whenever there is an attack, the president limits his communication… and people start to feel helpless, they think the increase in attacks is proof of the weakness of the government of Burkina Faso,” Eze said. at Al Jazeera.
“The government needs to engage more with the opposition and civil society… and [it needs] develop a kind of community early warning system that will be rooted in the population, ”he added.
In response to the growing fury, Kaboré sacked his defense and security ministers on Wednesday. Kaboré himself became Minister of Defense.
Despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers, attacks by rebel groups in the Sahel region of West Africa have increased sharply since the start of the year, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, civilians paying the price.