What's In Blue

Posted Wed 26 Aug 2015

Burkina Faso Briefing under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow morning (27 August), Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief the Security Council on his one day visit to Burkina Faso on 25 August. Feltman visited the country, together with the head of the UN Office for West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, ahead of the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 11 October. Chambas remains in the country holding talks with relevant actors. The briefing will be held under “Any Other Business” following consultations on the Syria humanitarian situation.

In November 2014, long standing president Blaise Compaoré resigned and the military took over power, following unrest after Compaoré tried to change the constitution in order to run for a third term. Since then a National Transitional Council (CNT), which the UN, ECOWAS and the AU helped establish, has been governing the country. The UN, ECOWAS and the AU are co-chairs of the International Follow-Up and Support Group for the Transition in Burkina Faso set up to assist the transitional authorities, including through the organisation of the elections.

It seems that Feltman is likely to alert Council members to the tensions in the country over amendments in the electoral code, which was adopted by the CNT in April and urge members to pay attention to developments in the run-up to elections. These amendments would exclude from participating in the upcoming elections candidates who had supported last year’s constitutional amendment to presidential term limits allowing Compaoré to run for a third term.

After Burkina Faso’s constitutional council upheld the electoral code provisions in a decision on 7 May, members of the former ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), appealed this decision to the ECOWAS Court of Justice. On 13 July, the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled in favor of this appeal, determining that the provisions of the new electoral code were a violation of the right to freely participate in elections. Transitional president Michel Kafando then stated in a speech to the nation that Burkina Faso was “a civilised nation” and would respect the court’s decision.

Yesterday, Burkina Faso’s constitutional council decided to exclude 42 candidates from participating in the legislative elections apparently due to their association with the former government. Members of parties close to the former Compaoré government have since called for a campaign of civil disobedience, and a possible boycott of the elections. A decision on the eligibility of candidates for the presidency by the constitutional council is expected on 29 August.

In this context, Feltman is likely to reiterate the importance of inclusive elections. Council members may be interested in more information on what efforts are being exerted or what opportunities exist to reverse the decision to ban these candidates from participating in the legislative elections. They may want to hear how ECOWAS and the AU are planning to react, especially in light of the apparent disregard of the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruling by the constitutional council. A number of members are likely to echo the importance of inclusive elections.

Council members are expected to use the briefing to get a more general update on the preparations for the elections, and to learn more about Feltman’s mission, and his assessment of the situation the ground. They may ask Feltman what support the Council could provide to help ensure successful elections. Members may also seek an update on the tensions that both he and Chambas had previously alerted members to between transitional prime minister Isaac Zida and the Presidential Security Regiment. Some members could also refer to attacks reported earlier this week apparently by extremist groups near the Malian border, in which two police officers were injured, and inquire about possible links with groups in Mali or with Boko Haram.

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