The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Context and Challenges:

Burkina Faso is at a critical point in its history. The unprecedented 2015 elections increased the expectations of citizens on their governments. Growing instability throughout the country, however, has made it significantly more difficult for the government to meet the needs of its people.

Burkina Faso’s criminal justice sector faces numerous challenges, including the need for institutional reform and modernization, and more comprehensive efforts to fight impunity and corruption. Several high profile attacks in Ouagadougou and an uptick in violence in the north and east of country have aggravated the challenge facing the government of Burkina Faso. Creating tangible, substantive improvements in security and the rule of law is essential to build trust and partnership with an activated citizenry. The United States and Burkina Faso share a commitment to address long-term stability through improving public trust and developing an equitable justice system.


INL’s goal in Burkina Faso is to assist Burkinabe security and justice institutions to be legitimate extensions of the central government that effectively provide visible, relevant, and accountable criminal justice services. INL is helping Burkina Faso establish effective, accountable police and corrections institutions to bolster the rule of law, promote citizen trust, and address insecurity emanating from terrorism and transnational criminal activity. Activities are funded primarily through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).


INL efforts demonstrate communities, informal security actors, and security services in Burkina Faso can work collaboratively to address insecurity. In the town of Saaba, participants in INL-funded dialogues have created trusting and effective partnerships to reduce crime and improve the rule of law. Following INL engagement, in 2017 the mayor of Saaba issued a decree formalizing the committee of law enforcement, informal security actors, and citizens and creating regular meetings to collaboratively address insecurity.

In 2018, the government of Burkina Faso hosted the first meeting of a new, INL-inspired prison reform network. The Colorado Network for Penitentiary Emergence in West and North Africa (French acronym RECEPAON) includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, and Senegal. RECEPAON is a partner-led initiative conceived during a regional training at INL’s International Corrections Management Training Center in Canon City, Colorado. Burkina Faso planned and executed this event with mentoring and logistical support from INL. The focus of this first meeting was developing and agreeing to founding documents to guide the future of the organization, including the organization’s guiding principles, operating procedures, the official logo, and a work plan for 2019. At the conclusion of the event, the RECEPAON rotating presidency was transferred from Burkina Faso to Mali. INL will continue to support this network through advising and training opportunities in line with network’s priorities and work plan. The second annual meeting will take place in Mali in 2019.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future