Burkina Faso expels UN coordinator

Burkina Faso has ordered the United Nations coordinator in the country to leave at the end of the day, declaring her “persona non grata,” the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“The Italian diplomat Barbara Manzi, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Burkina Faso, is declared persona non grata in the territory of Burkina Faso

“Therefore, you are requested to leave Burkina Faso today, December 23, 2022,” the ministry said, without giving any official reason for the expulsion.

Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba said Manzi’s decision to “unilaterally” withdraw non-essential UN staff from the capital Ouagadougou justified the move.

The withdrawal “discredits and tarnishes the image of the country and discourages potential investors. It is unthinkable and we have to take responsibility,” he told national television.

Rouamba said Manzi had “predicted chaos in Burkina Faso in the coming months”, adding that the United Nations should act as a “support structure” as the West African state fights a bloody jihadist insurgency.

A poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, Burkina Faso has been plagued since 2015 by attacks by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and driven some two million people from their homes.

A diplomatic source said the expulsion “risks placing the country in a delicate situation, at a time when Burkina Faso needs partners more than ever to deal with the security and humanitarian crisis,” the source added.

Another diplomatic source told AFP that a “long list of recriminations” had led to Manzi’s expulsion.

In addition to the request to withdraw non-essential personnel, Manzi is also accused of “trying to influence negatively” and “interfering in Burkina Faso’s political affairs,” according to the second source.

Rouamba added that Burkina Faso “maintained very good cooperation” with the United Nations regardless of Manzi’s expulsion.

Manzi, who was also a UN humanitarian coordinator, had been in her position in Burkina Faso since August 2021.

The expulsion of the UN official comes days after two French nationals working for a Burkina Faso company were expelled, accused by the authorities of espionage.

Media organizations in Burkina Faso have also accused the ruling junta of clamping down after Radio France Internationale (RFI), which is widely followed in the West African state, was suspended.

Frustration over rising military casualties against jihadists has led to two coups this year by disgruntled officers, most recently in September, when Captain Ibrahim Traore ousted Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

Last month, Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem de Tembela said he hoped “to diversify partnership relations until we find the right formula for Burkina Faso’s interests.”

He also said that “some partners” “had not always been loyal”, without naming any countries.

In July, Burkina Faso’s neighbor Mali, also embroiled in a security crisis linked to jihadist insurgents, expelled Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

The ruling junta there accused him of publishing “unacceptable information” about the arrest of 49 Ivorian soldiers in the capital Bamako.


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