What's In Blue

Posted Mon 5 Oct 2015

UNOWA head Mohammed Ibn Chambas to brief on Burkina Faso

Tomorrow morning (6 October), Council members will discuss developments in Burkina Faso under “any other business” following consultations on Mali. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), will brief via video-teleconference from Dakar. The main purpose of tomorrow’s briefing is to update Council members. Members last met on Burkina Faso when Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed on 17 September following the coup staged the previous day by the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), an elite 1,200 member unit created under former president Blaise Compaoré. Members issued a press statement after the meeting, their second in two days on the situation, expressing their readiness to consider further steps against the coup perpetrators (SC/12051).

Since the Council’s last briefing on Burkina Faso, the transitional authorities have been reinstalled. The Burkina Faso military, which other than the RSP remained loyal to the transitional government, advanced on the capital after the coup and entered Ouagadougou on 22 September. Meanwhile, ECOWAS was very engaged in brokering a solution. Its chairman, Senegalese President Macky Sall first visited the country from 18 to 20 September. On 22 September, an extraordinary session of ECOWAS heads of states (in which Chambas participated) held in Abuja decided to deploy a delegation of West African leaders to Burkina Faso the next day, while asking the AU to forgo imposing sanctions that were about to go into effect. Following a deal reached the evening of 22 September between Burkinabe actors, transitional president Michel Kafando was reinstated on 23 September. Council members issued a press statement on 24 September welcoming the reinstatement of Kafando and of the transitional authorities (SC/12057). The situation, however, remained potentially volatile. A number of RSP members refused to disarm after the government issued a decree dissolving the unit. On 28 September, the military raided their base and captured the remaining RSP members. Coup leader General Diendêré surrendered on 1 October. According to the government, 11 people were killed and 271 injured as a result of the coup, mostly during protests.

In addition to covering these developments, Chambas is likely to brief on how these events now effect the transition. National elections to conclude Burkina Faso’s transition had been planned for 11 October before the coup occurred, but will now be postponed. Members are likely to ask about the electoral calendar and the issues that could still pose a risk to the transition. In this regard, some members may raise the issue of inclusivity during the upcoming elections and ask about the status of the ban on individuals participating as candidates in the elections if they had supported a constitutional amendment last year to allow Compaoré to serve a third term. The ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled in July that this ban violated their rights, and ordered the Burkina Faso government to remove all obstacles to the participation in the elections arising from the electoral code amendment.. The ban was a key grievance cited by the coup perpetrators. During his initial visit to Burkina Faso, Sall proposed a plan for reinstating the government that included lifting this prohibition. But the plan, which also included amnesty for coup leaders, generated widespread criticism and was rejected by a number of stakeholders and civil society groups.

Council members will be interested in learning details of the agreements that led to the reinstatement of the authorities, and of a 25 September decree that established a commission to identify those responsible for the coup and report within 30 days. On 26 September, Burkina Faso’s prosecutor general froze the assets of 14 individuals and three political parties. Chambas may also provide information about scheduled meetings among Burkinabe stakeholders to resolve outstanding questions, such as deciding on a new date for the elections.

Members are also expected to discuss with Chambas how the Council can support the UN’s efforts to ensure the success of the transition and holding of elections. Chambas may stress the importance of conducting elections as soon as possible in order to conclude the transition, leaving issues such as accountability over recent events to be addressed by the democratically-elected authorities. Some members are likely to stress the importance of regional and international organisations remaining engaged and maintaining pressure on authorities in this regard.