Friday, November 25, 2011

Men of Integrity, Part 2

In Part 1, we considered a brief recent history of Burkina Faso. Highlights included how Thomas Sankara led a military coup in 1983 (one of a series the country had seen), seizing power with the help of his friend Blaise Compaoré. Sankara established a Castro-style revolutionary government, complete with revolutionary committees and torture, defying the powers of international bankers and French neo-colonialists. Sankara was trying to establish Upper Volta, as the country was then known, as a truly independent nation - independent of the manipulating foreign powers that seek to keep so many African nations subdued.

Compaoré murdered his childhood friend, seizing power in 1987 in a country that Sankara had renamed "Burkina Faso", and began to align his country's policies more closely with the goals and desires of these international puppet masters. As a result of Compaoré's new policies, Burkina Faso supported bands of armed thugs who stirred up trouble in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire, where strongman Alassane Ouattara, a fellow Burkinabé countryman, was this year installed as "president" with assistance from French military power operating under UN auspices, and in violation of Ivoirian law.

Guillaume Soro, another Burkinabé who owns very nice houses ;) in Burkina Faso and France, is one of Ouattara's chief lieutenants in what I might call an occupation of Côte d'Ivoire.

So, what we have is an obvious attempt by foreign powers, including neo-colonial France and international bankers, to use the power they have consolidated in Burkina Faso to spread their influene throughout western Africa, with their most recent conquest being Côte d'Ivoire.

Needless to say, relations between Compaoré and Ouattara are cordial. The text of Burkina Faso: President, Ouattara Aim to Boost Ties, November 18, 2011:

Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, who backed Alassane Ouattara during Ivory Coast's political crisis, hosted a joint cabinet meeting with the Ivorian leader Friday to boost bilateral cooperation.

Compaore said the joint meetings were designed to foster stronger integration between the neighbouring west African states.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Compoare added that he was "happy about the return of peace and institutional stability in our sister republic, Ivory Coast".

Compaore was firmly behind Ouattara in the impasse that arose from the November 2010 elections, when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept he had lost, although Compaore's mediation efforts appeared to achieve little.

The crisis ended with the arrest in April of Gbagbo, whose resistance gave rise to clashes that left thousands dead.

At the joint meeting, Ouattara thanked Burkina's leader for his "personal involvement ... in the denouement of the Ivorian crisis".

Some three million Burkinabe work in Ivory Coast, mostly on cocoa plantations.

An estimated 80,000 Burkinabe fled Ivory Coast during the country's political unrest. - ANP/AFP

But, the main thing they are working on bilaterally is the consolidation of power.

For some background, we consider an excerpt from COTE D'IVOIRE: Barakissa Ouédraogo, "We must talk, otherwise we’ll keep killing one another", from earlier this year:

OUAGADOUGOU, 4 July 2011 (IRIN) - As Ivoirian and international officials discuss truth, reconciliation and trying those suspected of war crimes, Barakissa Ouédraogo, one of more than 100,000 Burkinabé who fled Côte d'Ivoire for Burkina Faso during the post-election violence, says helping families rebuild destroyed homes would do more to foster stability.

Ouédraogo said she regularly received death threats and that Burkinabé friends in Côte d’Ivoire were killed and maimed. "The violence just got to be too much - so many killed, so many injured. We had to flee." She said presidents come and go, and that it is the people who must decide not to let politics lead to killing. Ouédraogo was born in Côte d’Ivoire, where Burkinabé have lived for generations. Having fled to Burkina in January, she recently returned to Abidjan's Abobo District to assess the damage at her shelled home.

"I think these truth and reconciliation processes are just theatre, decoration. If you ask me, the money that would go into organizing such things could be used to fix holes in roofs, to help families who are really destitute. If you see your home repaired, you get some relief. Whatever your ethnicity, whatever your politics, that would ease your pain. There are still people living outdoors.

"You're going to go to talk to a commission, tell them how your family was killed and you want to forgive, then what? You return to the street because your home is flattened."

One of the main causes of "flattened" homes was the use of French firepower - helicopter gunships, for example - to support Ouattara's thugs as they ousted President Gbagbo. The "truth and reconciliation processes" mentioned, for which another of my series on events in the region is named (see sidebar), is an attempt to whitewash the crimes of Ouattara's thugs and their French allies, and blame everything on Gbagbo's supporters.

So, Burkina Faso under Blaise Compaoré played a key role in destabilizing the region and in particular in overthrowing the legitimate government of Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo.

But, as we saw in Part 1, what goes around comes around.

First, we consider the backdrop to the drama that is about to play out in the region. From WEST AFRICA: Sahel the danger zone for food insecurity:

DAKAR, 27 October 2011 (IRIN) - Erratic rains and high imported rice and wheat prices against a backdrop of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition in parts of the Sahel, will leave millions of people at risk of food insecurity, according to the latest crop assessments.

"We are definitely going to have a difficult year," said Patricia Hoorelbeke, West Africa head of NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF), adding that the NGO is considering expanding its food and nutrition programmes in the region.

Food production

Food production is expected to be lower than usual in parts of western Niger, Chad's Sahelian zone, southern Mauritania, western Mali, eastern Burkina Faso, northern Senegal and Nigeria, according to a report by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and a separate assessment by USAID's food security monitor FEWS NET.

The link at the end of the passage has some interesting infographics. In the short term (i.e., for the rest of this year) there will be food supply "stress" in Mauritania - fairly distant from Burkina Faso:

But, as 2012 opens, the situation will worsen, engulfing the entire country of Mali (where there are other troubles) and spreading to the other side of Burkina Faso.

As the passage itself indicates, eastern parts of Burkina Faso will become directly affected.

A stressed food supply, caused by drought, has been known to help generate fairly chaotic conditions; Somalia is a classic example of this.

For some additional background on the developing food insecurity situation throughout the Sahelian region of Africa, which includes the area we are considering, I suggest an article by Alex Thurston, published in The Christian Science Monitor, entitled Sahel Grapples with Food Insecurity, November 21, 2011, and cross-posted at Thurston's blog: Focus on Sahelian Food Shortages.

The food insecurity situation is noteworthy in Chad, where there are chronic problems with malnutrition and food shortages, and is of real concern in Niger, already shaded in the graphic above to have a stressed area near its capital, which is near the border with Burkina Faso. Skipping down in WEST AFRICA: Sahel the danger zone for food insecurity:

Returnees from Libya

The return to Niger and Chad of migrants from Libya who previously sent money home to help mitigate crop deficit is already pushing some families into further food insecurity, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "These returns have aggravated extreme poverty and hunger which is affecting more than half of Niger's 2.5 million people threatened with food insecurity this year," said IOM.

While international attention and government involvement has been relatively high in Niger compared to the devastating drought of 2005, Oumarou Lalo Keita, principal adviser to the prime minister, said international agencies have been slow to respond to government appeals for increased aid over recent months as a result of the return of some 90,000 migrants from Libya. "There is clearly cause for concern," he said. Following the 2009-2010 drought, the country does not have sufficient emergency food stocks, he said. "We experience difficulties year-on-year, and there is still a gap between needs and the support we receive."

While governments and aid agencies in West Africa are for the most part well-versed in responding to food insecurity, readiness and capacity is still low in some areas.

Part of the Chadian Sahel and eastern Burkina Faso are not receiving as much international attention, said ACF's Hoorelbeke. "Chadian Sahel is hardly covered - there are not enough agencies there... If there is a situation that we hear very little about, it is eastern Burkina Faso, where we are likely to see a real problem this year," she told IRIN.

The same guys who pull strings in western Africa have been busy in Libya. And now, people returning from Libya are going to be a problem, and not just because they are refugee mouths to feed instead of wage-earners as they were under Gaddafi. From Burkina Faso, Niger - Libya weapons fear, November 14, 2011:

Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso and Niger are concerned about regional insecurity following the conflict in Libya which they fear has led to new arms trafficking, Niger's prime minister said Monday.

"It is a major concern, the trafficking of arms is a real threat to the region," Rafini Briji said on a visit to Ouagadougou.

"The conflict in Libya has created very complicated situations since the arms depots were opened and people from all quarters helped themselves and took them [arms] in all directions," he said.

Briji said Niger and Burkina Faso were worried about armed groups and the concentration of weapons all around their two countries.

In response they have decided to reinforce their co-operation to ensure security in the Sahel-Saharan zone, Briji added.

During a visit to South Africa on Friday, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou asked for military aid to help fight armed groups and traffickers, saying the Libyan conflict had aggravated terrorist threats.

Since the overthrow and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, experts have expressed concern that part of Gaddafi's considerable stock of weapons could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa which has bases in the Sahel and is currently holding several foreign hostages.

To be sure, the Sahara/Sahel region was already a crossroads for smugglers moving South American cocaine to Europe, moving Asian heroin to the Americas, and moving arms to anyone with a means to pay for them. But, Libya was well-stocked with arms, and the area is now going to be flooded with weapons - and not just with military-grade automatic rifles.

Perhaps the potential for trouble is why Compaoré's government in Burkina Faso is taking a page from the playbook of Compaoré's childhood friend Thomas Sankara, whom Compaoré murdered to seize power, and trying a new plan to alleviate food insecurity problems. From BURKINA FASO: “Blue revolution” needed to boost dry-season harvest:

OUAGADOUGOU, 17 November 2011 (IRIN) - The Burkina Faso government is attempting for the first time to implement a nationwide dry-season agricultural campaign to counteract possible food insecurity in areas that received poor or erratic rainfall this year. But the government, alongside others in the region, also needs to invest in a "blue revolution" - small-scale irrigation systems to help farmers grow crops in drought-prone zones - says the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Some 146 out of 351 communes across 10 of Burkina Faso's 13 regions were affected by low grain outputs, according to the government's provisional estimates. The regions most affected by poor rains were the northern millet-producing zone, the Sahel, the Centre north, the Centre west, the East and the Centre east.

"At the moment the food security situation is not alarmist, but there are pockets spread out across the country that could be in a critical situation, and that need to be closely monitored," the Deputy-director of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Burkina Faso, Ariane Waldvogel, told IRIN.

One thing is for sure: If food insecurity in and around Burkina Faso develops into a real crisis, this could be the spark that allows all these nomadic mercenaries with all their new Libyan toys to ignite a real flame in Burkina Faso - a country that has in recent months experienced unrest - bringing the troubles that Compaoré helped cause elsewhere home to roost.

No comments:

Post a Comment