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Burkina Faso’s ruling military junta on Friday ordered UN resident coordinator Barbara Manzi to leave the country immediately.
The UN coordinator in Burkina Faso, the Italian Barbara Manzi, was declared “persona non grata” and “asked to leave the country” on Friday, December 23, by the junta in power in this Sahelian country plagued by a serious security crisis marked by recurrent jihadist attacks.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Barbara Manzi, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system, is declared persona non grata on the territory of Burkina Faso. She is therefore requested to leave Burkina Faso today, December 23 2022.”
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olivia Rouamba, this expulsion is justified in particular by the fact that Barbara Manzi decided “unilaterally” to withdraw non-essential UN personnel from Ouagadougou. “It’s discrediting, tarnishing the image of the country and discouraging potential investors. It’s inconceivable and we must take our responsibilities,” she added, during an interview on national television.
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“Beyond these facts, it has come back to us that Barbara Manzi was predicting chaos in Burkina Faso in the coming months. We do not know on what basis she can do this. Great efforts are being made on the security level and the UN should establish itself as a support structure,” the minister continued.
Since 2015, the country has struggled to cope with deadly attacks by jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group that have killed thousands and forced some two million people to flee their homes.
Olivia Rouamba, however, wanted to make the difference between “the person of Barbara Manzi and the UN”, with which Burkina “still maintains very good cooperation”.
A diplomatic source confirmed to AFP that a “long list of complaints” led “Burkinabe diplomacy to take responsibility”.
In addition to the request for the withdrawal of non-essential staff, Barbara Manzi is also accused of an “attempt to influence negatively” and to “interfere in the political affairs of Burkina”, according to this source.
UN representatives in Ouagadougou were not immediately available on Friday afternoon.
Several evictions in the Sahel
This expulsion comes a few days after that of two French people who worked for a Burkinabè company and who were suspected by the authorities of being spies.
Burkina is not the first West African state to expel a UN official this year.
In July, Mali, a neighboring country of Burkina, also caught in a serious security crisis, expelled Olivier Salgado, the spokesperson for the United Nations Mission in Mali (Minusma), for having published, according to the ruling junta, “unacceptable information” the day after the arrest of 49 Ivorian soldiers in Bamako.
Barbara Manzi, who was also the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, had been posted in Burkina Faso since August 2021. She had presented her credentials to former President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, overthrown in January 2022 by a coup d’etat. military.
Burkina Faso has been ruled since the end of September by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, author of another military putsch.
Its Prime Minister, Apollinaire Kyélem de Tembela, wanted in mid-November to “diversify partnership relations until the right formula is found for the interests of Burkina Faso”.
He also claimed that “some partners” had “not always been loyal”, without naming countries.
Among the new partners envisaged, the question of a possible rapprochement with Russia has arisen in Burkina since the coup that brought Captain Ibrahim Traoré to power.