Dakar, Senegal — Burkina Faso’s government on Friday expelled the country’s top UN official, asking her to leave immediately, officials said.
Barbara Manzi, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in the West African country, has been declared persona non grata, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Burkina Faso has been ravaged by violence linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group which has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million, creating a growing humanitarian crisis. Lack of confidence in the government’s ability to stem the violence has led to two military coups this year.
Although no reason was given in the statement for his expulsion, Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba told state television on Friday that Manzi had sounded the alarm about insecurity in the capital, Ouagadougou, without providing evidence.
“She claimed she had information from reliable sources without agreeing to give any evidence,” Rouamba said. She also said Manzi told her she was in contact with “terrorist leaders” and wondered how Manzi had been able to gain easy access to the besieged town of Djibo in the Sahel region when security forces from the countries were unable to do so.
Manzi, who was appointed United Nations Resident Coordinator in August last year, has often traveled to hard-hit parts of the country to try to raise awareness about the deteriorating humanitarian crisis. The Italian native has extensive experience with the UN, serving as head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ukraine, Iraq, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Prior to Burkina Faso, she was Resident Coordinator in Djibouti.
The United Nations would not comment on the decision immediately. Diplomats in Burkina Faso said they were taken by surprise, according to a Western official who was not authorized to speak to the media.
Manzi’s expulsion comes amid a government crackdown on the international community. Last week, two French citizens were expelled from the country on espionage charges, and earlier this month the government suspended French broadcaster Radio France Internationale for relaying an “intimidation message” attributed to a “terrorist”, according to a press release from the junta.
The decision to evict Manzi is a worrying sign and will make it more difficult for aid groups to operate, according to aid organisations.
“The odious decision to designate Barbara Manzi, the UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator, a PNG (persona non grata) is a sign that this dangerous trend line is not only continuing under the current regime, but is getting worse” , said Alexandra Lamarche, principal researcher. at Refugees International.
“Over the years, these types of bullying tactics have attempted to force aid groups to ignore the true extent of the crisis or the role of government and national security forces in perpetuating the crisis. violence against civilians, forcing them and fueling humanitarian needs,” she said.