The recent killing of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in Niger as they were training local troops, as well as an August attack that claimed the lives of 18 people in Burkina Faso, highlight the extremist violence and other security threats facing communities in the Sahel region of Africa. On October 25, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the AFI DOCS Film Festival hosted the world premiere of a six-part documentary that traces the personal stories of residents and police who are cooperating with each other to improve security in their community on the region’s frontlines. (View the film trailer.)


The film, called “Saaba” after the name of the area where the action takes place, chronicles a USIP initiative to build trust and reduce tensions among citizens, police, local authorities and informal security groups outside Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African country of Burkina Faso.

Award-winning filmmakers from Meridian Hill Pictures (“City of Trees” and “The Messy Truth”) and Big Mouth Productions (“Cameraperson” and “E-Team” ) documented the project as it unfolded. The series offers a view of peacebuilding from the perspective of five community members, such as a local police officer and a children’s rights activist, as they participate in the USIP-designed Justice and Security Dialogue process. The film tracks how they work to develop resilience to a range of security problems, including the mounting violent extremism in the region.

Following the screening, the filmmakers and professionals from Burkina Faso working on the initiative joined a panel to discuss the issues and the approach.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #SaabaFilm.


Nancy LindborgOpening Remarks
President, United States Institute of Peace

Philippe Leroux-MartinModerator
Director, Rule of Law, Justice and Security, United States Institute of Pace

Brandon Kramer
Director, Meridian Hill Pictures

Lance Kramer
Producer, Meridian Hill Pictures

Ena Dion
Senior Program Officer, United States Institute of Peace

Susan Stigant
Director, Africa Programs, United States Institute of Peace

Sandrine Nama
Country Officer, Burkina Faso, Justice, Security, Dialogue, United States Institute of Peace

Idrissa Barry
Balai Citoyen, Burkina Faso

Related Publications

Managing the Secure Release of Sensitive Detainees in Libya

Managing the Secure Release of Sensitive Detainees in Libya

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

By: Fiona Mangan ; Lillian Dang ; Nate Wilson

During the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gadhafi, revolutionary fighters in Libya rounded up large numbers of Gadhafi loyalists and detained them in prison facilities and makeshift detention centers around the country. The release of such high-profile detainees, either after they have been acquitted of crimes or served their sentences, is a sensitive political issue. This report examines the domestic and international laws and standards governing the secure release of these detainees and provides a number of policy ideas for addressing the shortcomings of Libya’s current release procedures.

Type: Special Report

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Ethiopia’s Experiment in Reconciliation

Ethiopia’s Experiment in Reconciliation

Monday, September 23, 2019

By: Solomon Ayele Dersso

In February 2019, the Ethiopian parliament adopted a landmark proclamation establishing a national reconciliation commission, the first-ever such institution in Ethiopia. Six months on, the commission has developed a three-year plan and begun consultations. But the body was formed without broad-based political consensus regarding its mandate, so has yet to win the critical trust of Ethiopia’s many social and political groups. Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso discusses the mandate of this body, the challenges ahead, and how the commission could help build peace in Africa’s second most populous country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

As Africa Battles Sexual Violence, a Nigerian City Shows How

As Africa Battles Sexual Violence, a Nigerian City Shows How

Thursday, August 8, 2019

By: Isioma Kemakolam

When civic leaders and officials in Jos, Nigeria, launched an initiative in 2017 to calm repeated bloodshed in the city, a series of dialogue forums with residents revealed a chilling pattern of hidden violence in their midst: sexual assault. Girls and women recounted rapes and attacks for which justice was impossible, often because authorities were unresponsive. The women faced a problem common to their sisters across Africa: national laws against sexual violence were having little effect on the ground. But the dialogues have wrought a change. In May, police in Jos opened the city’s first unit dedicated to investigating sexual and gender crimes.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Monday, August 5, 2019

By: Ezatullah Waqar

As the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban maneuver toward a peace process for the country, the strength of the current Afghan government and political system will be affected by the credibility, in Afghans’ eyes, of the presidential election set for September 28. Yet the credibility of Afghan elections is weakened by unresolved allegations of criminal fraud—especially against the nation’s former top election officials—in last year’s parliamentary balloting. With just 53 days remaining before the presidential vote, time is now short—but Afghan authorities still can take steps to improve the prospects for an election that citizens might see as credible and legitimate.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

View All Publications