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Burkina Faso expels senior UN official

Burkina Faso’s national flag.

Burkina Faso’s military government has ordered senior United Nations official, Barbara Manzi to leave the country immediately, without giving a reason.

Following Ms Manzi’s expulsion on Friday, a government spokesperson refused to provide details about the decision, and did not immediately say why the authorities had labeled her, the UN’s resident coordinator in the country, as “persona non grata”, demanding that she leave on Friday.

“Ms Barbara Manzi, resident coordinator of the United Nations system, is declared persona non grata on the territory of Burkina Faso,” a government statement said.

“She is therefore requested to leave Burkina Faso today, December 23, 2022,” it demanded, without giving any official reason for the expulsion.

Reuters quotes a diplomatic source as saying the expulsion is justified by the fact that Ms Manzi recently “requested and obtained the withdrawal of non-essential personnel of the (UN) system from Burkina Faso”.

It was a decision that “risks placing the country in a delicate situation, at a time when Burkina Faso is in dire need of partners to face the security and humanitarian crisis”, the source added.

Another diplomatic source told AFP that a “long list of recriminations” have led “Burkina Faso diplomacy to take its responsibilities”.

In addition to the request for the withdrawal of non-essential personnel, Ms Manzi is also accused of “attempting to influence negatively” and of “interfering in the political affairs of Burkina”, according to this source.

Ms Manzi’s expulsion comes a few days after the expulsion of two French nationals who worked for a Burkinabe company and were suspected by the authorities of being spies.

Burkina Faso has been ruled since the end of September by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, author of a military coup, the second in eight months.

Its Prime Minister, Apollinaire Kyélem de Tembela, had hoped in mid-November to “diversify partnership relations until we find the right formula for the interests of Burkina Faso”.

He also said that “some partners” had “not always been loyal”, without naming any countries.

In July, Burkina’s neighbour, Mali, also caught up in a serious security crisis, expelled Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the UN 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.

A spokesperson at the UN headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Islamic insurgency

Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries, is in the grips of an Islamist insurgency in which militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed thousands of civilians and created one of the continent’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises.

Nearly 2 million people have been displaced and reside in makeshift camps, many run by the UN, that dot the arid countryside.

The violence, which has rumbled on for about seven years, has been focused in the north and east, crippling local economies, causing mass hunger, and restricting access for aid organisations.

The UN provides some essential services, including supplying food for thousands of malnourished children.

Ms Manzi, who has long experience in humanitarian activities in developing countries, was appointed to the post in Burkina Faso last year.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor