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On Burkina Faso, UN Security Council To Hear from Chambas, ICP Learns

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4, updated -- With the military claiming control of Burkina Faso, after days of silence from the UN Security Council, on November 4 the Security Council will get a briefing on the topic from UN envoy to West Africa Mohammed ibn Chambas, Inner City Press has learned.

Update of 5:55 pm - in front of the UN Security Council just before 6 pm, Inner City Press was told that the connection with Chambas was just too bad, and that Under Secretary General Jeff Feltman will do the Burkina Faso briefing.

Update of 7:05 pm - while Australia's Gary Quinlan said at his 12:30 pm briefing that the Burkina Faso briefing is "at my request," it was a member of the French delegation which shepherded the Department of Political Affairs into the Council, which some at the stakeout noted.

   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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