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In Burkina Faso, IMF Tells ICP Mission Off Until Recognized Govt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13, updated with transcript -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 13, Inner City Press asked about Burkina Faso: "does the IMF have any comment or response to the change of government, any impacts on IMF programs or forecasts for the country or its neighbors?"

  IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray replied that "in terms of Burkina Faso there were some issues with a mission recently but now the situation is evolving. As soon as an internationally recognized transitional government is in place, we look forward to resuming discussions with the authorities."

Citing "signals for donor engagement," Murray said the IMF "anticipates the transitional government  is likely to want to continue a program engagement of some sort. Depending on the authorities' wishes and the commitments they are willing to undertake, options might be a one year program under the Rapid Credit Facility or continuation of the current ECF supported program."

  And there you have it.

From the IMF's subsequently released transcript:

IMF's William Murray: I have a question, again from Matthew Lee, on Burkina Faso. On Burkina Faso, does the IMF have any comment or response to the change of government and any impacts on IMF programs or forecasts for the country or its neighbors. Let me -- I'm going to have to dive into my brief here, Matthew. In terms of Burkina Faso, you know there are some issues there with the mission recently, but now the situation is evolving and we are following developments in Burkina Faso closely. As soon as internationally recognized transitional government is in place, we look forward to resuming our discussions with the authorities. Burkina Faso has a long track record of strong performance with programs supported by the IMF. Since the current program provides a signal for broader donor engagement, we anticipate that the transition government is likely to want to continue a program engagement of some sort. Depending upon the authorities' wishes, and the commitments that they are willing to undertake, options might be a one year program supported by the rapid credit facility or possibly continuation of the current ECF supported program. Program implementation capacity will also be an important consideration. That's our latest update on Burkina.

All right, I think we can wrap this up. Is there any other questions we can? Okay, great

 At the UN on November 4, with the military claiming control of Burkina Faso, after days of silence from the UN Security Council, the Security Council got a briefing on the topic from UN Political Affairs chief Jeff Feltman.

  Afterward Inner City Press asked Quinlan if there had been any discussion of the spread of what some call the African Spring, noting for example that a statute of Joseph Kabila was toppled in Beni in Eastern Congo, even as Kabila asks UN Peacekeeping for military support.

  Quinlan said there has been some discussion of the regional aspect, but not in detail. Inner City Press asked if France had acknowledged in the Council's consultations having helped Burkina Faso's 27 year ruler -- who came to power on the back, so to speak, of Thomas Sankara -- escape the country.

  Quinlan said he hadn't heard of the allegation that France help Compaore get away. Well, here it is: president Francois Hollande told reporters in Quebec City that "we did it... to avoid drama and other convulsions."

  Twenty four hours later on November 5, the Security Council issued a Press Statement:

The Security Council heard a briefing on 4 November 2014 by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, on the political crisis in Burkina Faso.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over the political and security crisis in Burkina Faso and over reports of the loss of life resulting from recent events surrounding the resignation of Mr. Blaise Compaoré from his post of President of Burkina Faso. They called for calm and urged all parties to refrain from violence. They called on the Burkina Faso authorities to respect the right of peaceful assembly and right to life and to protect citizen’s safety and property.

The members of the Security Council called on all actors involved in Burkina Faso to respect the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on democracy and good governance and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, notably the rejection of unconstitutional changes of Government.

The members of the Security Council acknowledged the democratic aspiration of the people of Burkina Faso. They urged the security forces of Burkina Faso to hand over power to a civilian-led transition and to take immediate steps to restore constitutional order without delay.

The members of the Security Council called on all stakeholders in Burkina Faso to collaborate together to launch a peaceful, civilian-led and democratic transition process leading to the holding of free, fair, inclusive and credible elections as soon as possible, consistent with the Constitution of Burkina Faso.

The members of the Security Council took note of the Declaration of the Chairman of (ECOWAS) of 2 November 2014 and of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council communiqué of 4 November 2014 on Burkina Faso.

The members of the Security Council expressed their full support to the Special Representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, and for the mission conducted jointly with the African Union and ECOWAS, and called on all parties in Burkina Faso to extend full cooperation to the joint mission. They commended the efforts of regional and international actors, in particular ECOWAS and the African Union, towards the restoration of constitutional order in Burkina Faso.

   The UN never criticized Blaise Compaore's 27 year rule or his bid to extend it; in the DR Congo, UN Peacekeeping unself-consciously offers military support to Joseph Kabila.  But how will the UN Security Council react, if at all, to military rule in Burkina Faso?

   The US State Department Spokesperson on the evening of October 31, Halloween, said:

"The United States is concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso.  We regret the violence and the loss of life in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence.  We reiterate our call for all parties to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power and holding of democratic elections following the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore.  We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people’s support for the democratic process."

 Minutes later the US State Department issued a travel alert on "the risks of travel to or residing in Burkina Faso and recommends U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel.  This Travel Alert will expire on January 29, 2015. On October 31, Burkina Faso’s President Compaore resigned.  The status of a transitional government remains unclear.  There are incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country."

   For days the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been vaguely calling for calm. On October 31 at noon Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: the UN seems to in peace processes work pretty closely with Burkina Faso.  So I wonder when, if you can maybe say, when the President began to talk about changing term limits and going beyond his current 27 years of rule, did anyone in the UN system say, maybe it's a bad idea, maybe it's time… maybe your Government is too strong, maybe it's time for somebody else?  Or was it hands off?  What was the view of that?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think it's… first of all, I doubt that there were any consultations by the President and the UN on what his decisions were, what the parliament's decision was going to be, you know, so I think we're trying to imagine conversations that were not had.

Inner City Press: What I'm saying is, the UN has actively asked the Burkina authorities to play a role in a variety of regional conflicts; it seems like there are kind of discussions, and also by making that request, they're saying that this 27-year person is a…

Spokesman:  I think, you know, Burkina Faso has a role to play in the regional… in keeping regional peace.  I think every country in any region has that role to play.

Inner City Press:  What's Mr. Chambas doing there?

Spokesman:  He was sent by the Secretary-General.  He'll be meeting with key stakeholders.  He arrived this morning.  Obviously, the situation is changing at a very rapid clip, and he will be talking with key stakeholders. 

   Ah, the UN.

  Why did the US - and the UN Secretariat -- support his 27 year rule, while criticizing others?

 Twenty seven years ago, Thomas Sankara was overthrown and killed in a coup led by Blaise Compaore.

  It was under Sankara that the country's name change from "Upper Volta" to Burkina Faso, land of the upright. History records two meetings of Sankara and France's Francois Mitterand. At the Vittel conference, Mitterand stared stony-faced ahead as Sankara spoke of seeking foreign relations with countries beyond France.

  And later, after South African apartheid leader Pieter Botha had visited France, Sankara criticized Mitterand to his face in Ouagadougou, after Mitterand drove through the streets waving at the crowd. Soon the Compaore coup would kill Sankara, and France and Boigny would congratulate Compaore. The rest is history.

 And new colonies, too: France has laid claim to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, controlling the Security Council's pen and most recent trip there, down to which media could go on the "UN" plane.

  France for over sixteen years has controlled UN Peacekeeping, now through Herve Ladsous, twice spurned, who refuses to answer or even take Press questions.

  What would Thomas Sankara say? On this day, and going forward, we must ask. Watch this site.


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