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The Burkinabes Taking Justice into their Own Hands

Koglweogo is a vigilante group of around 40,000 men that has sprung up across the country’s arid savanna, especially in parts gradually falling away from government control. Translated from Mòoré, one of many local languages in Burkina Faso, Koglweogo means “guardian of the bush.” Like many other countries in the Sahel region, which skirts the southern reaches of the Sahara, parts of Burkina Faso have been ravaged by lawlessness and insecurity in recent years. Since 2015, more than 3,000 people have died and nearly 1 million have fled their homes, amid an influx of militants from Islamic State and al-Qaida. The group became known for bringing a kind of justice to the region. “Anytime a village has an issue with thievery, the gendarmes [military police] call us for assistance now,” Nadbanka says. He became a de facto commander of the Koglweogos, popular and high profile. Today, he oversees four of Burkina Faso’s 13 regions.