Jolie in Africa

June 22, 2021

Into Africa

A high-profile Hollywood star visits an African nation that the U.S. government clearly warns Americans: "Do Not Travel."
What's Going On
Why It Matters

“Do not travel to Burkina Faso due to terrorism, crime, and kidnapping … Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso. Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with little or no warning. Targets could include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, areas at or near mining sites, places of worship, military posts, and schools. Kidnapping and hostage taking is a threat throughout the country.”

The U.S. State Department with a Level 4 Travel Advisory issued less than a week ago for Burkina Faso, as well as neighboring country Mali – both West African nations.

Quick News

  • Angelina Jolie visited Burkina Faso, a West African nation plagued by increasing Islamic terrorism.
  • Jolie serves as Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; she’s highlighting the humanitarian crisis as local people and those from the surrounding area flee their homes.
  • Big Picture: Burkina Faso has confronted al-Qaeda/Islamic State terrorist groups for several years, highlighting a broader story about the rise of Islamic terrorism in Africa.
“We insisted on staying (in Burkina Faso), (but) we stay with fear. We are too scared. Today there is not a country where there isn’t a problem. This (terrorism) problem covers all of Africa."

Fadimata Mohamed Ali Wallet, a Malian refugee in Burkina Faso – just one country in a key area called the “Sahel” that stretches across the entire continent. France recently pulled back some military assistance in Mali, prompting a local security analyst to warn: “To abandon Mali is to abandon the Sahel. It is to open Pandora’s box for Europe.”

Why It Matters

  • Over the last decade, Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have gained ground and taken over huge swaths of land, terrorizing and murdering local people.
  • The U.S. and others have deployed military assets to fight terrorists, or train local forces.
  • Countries like Afghanistan or Yemen served as launching pads for terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S., as terrorists found safe haven in those countries. Questions remain about if/when this terrorism threat in West Africa (and beyond) becomes more international.

Jolie’s presence comes after a particularly violent period – the worst terrorist attack in Burkina Faso’s history, with the murder of 130+ people, and a particularly deadly year: Nearly 7,000 people died in the violence in 2020, the deadliest year for Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger since extremists invaded almost a decade ago. (The Washington Post). New reports suggest another neighboring country to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, is also seeing an increase in terrorist activity, including IEDs, as the threat spreads.

Angelina Jolie visits Burkina Faso as U.N. Special Envoy

State Department Advisory

Analysis from The Long War Journal on Ivory Coast and beyond

by Jenna Lee,