Unfortunately, my work schedule tomorrow will prevent me from hearing Djibrill Bassolé, the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, speak at the Wilson Center. I did however hear the Minister speak there last Spring, just after the coup in Mali.
While he sounded all of the appropriate notes then, the rhetoric just does not match the reality. Blaise Compaore come to power after leading a coup and killing Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s visionary and personable leader who made great strides during a four year administration. Compaore continues to meddle callously in African politics – Burkina Faso played a significant role in the civil wars in Liberia and Ivory Coast. Despite this authoritarian heritage, Burkina Faso is well respected in the West and is looked to as a mediator of west African conflicts.
Although it is Africa’s 4th largest gold producer, Burkina Faso lags at the very bottom of the human development index, with the other states of the Sahel. I resent the Wilson Center’s close relationship with the Compaore regime (as evinced by these repeated visits by Bassole) and I particularly resent the fact that the West has come to view Burkina Faso as an authority on west African foreign policy (why do we need a briefing on Mali’s elections from Bassole? Are no Malians able to come to DC to do this? Have we ceded that much ground to China?).
Through its military support of the French intervention in Mali, Chad looks to be joining those ranks as well. These are not developments that one wants to see in the Sahel, the poorest region of Africa.