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Religious Leaders Condemn Burkina Violence

FILE: A fulani herder watches his cows near Ouangolodougou, northern Ivory Coast close to the Burkina Faso and Mali borders. Taken 6.24.2020

Hundreds of imams and preachers on Monday condemned religious and ethnic intolerance in insurgency-hit Burkina Faso after calls to kill Fulani community members.

"We, Burkinabe, play a pernicious self-destructive role... by spreading messages inciting religious and ethnic intolerance which can lead to extremely violent clashes," said Moussa Kouanda, head of the Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina (FAIB) after more than 700 members of the clergy held a seminar in the capital Ouagadougou.

His federation statement noted "particularly violent hate speech in the media and so-called social networks".

"Under these conditions, how can we be united in the face of adversity? How can we generate the synergies necessary to build a nation?"

The FAIB urged people "to go the extra mile to give a chance of survival to the nation" which "is living through the darkest days of its history."

Jihadist attacks in the impoverished Sahel nation have inflamed accusations against the Fulani, sparking fears the volatile situation may spiral into ethnic conflict or even civil war.

Audio messages posted mainly on WhatsApp recently have urged "native" Burkinabe to attack the Fulani, especially in the southwest region bordering Ivory Coast.

The government issued a fierce condemnation, saying the posts were "active and direct calls for murder, mass killings, ethnic cleansing and sedition".

The Fulani, also known as Peul, account for around 1.5 million of Burkina's 20.5 million people.

Some have been singled out in the past for association with jihadist massacres.

Muslim majority Burkina Faso is battling a raging seven-year-old insurgency led by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which has left thousands of people dead and prompted nearly two million to flee their homes.

With more than 40 percent of the country outside government control, the ruling junta which seized power in January has declared the fight against the insurgency a top priority.