Burkina Faso & Côte d'Ivoire
Burkina Faso risks reputation in Ivorian mutiny

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President Blaise Compoaré

Accused of heading a "rough state"

President Blaise Compoaré

afrol News, 23 September - The Ivorian government already has named Burkina Faso a "rough state" over its alleged involvement in the ongoing mutiny. Burkina Faso finds it increasingly difficult to explain away its dubious role in West African conflicts, including its poorly hidden support to Taylor's Liberia and the Sierra Leonean RUF rebels.

The government of Côte d'Ivoire this week has made various allegations of a Burkinabe involvement in the Ivorian uprising, mostly without naming names, though. An Ivorian government spokesman mentioned "rough states that like to play policing" were supporting the rebels. There existed "proof", he said. Earlier references to Burkina Faso left no doubts which country he referred to.

Under President Laurent Gbagbo's rule, Côte d'Ivoire's relations with Burkina Faso have cooled as the political opposition to him is centred in Ivorian ethnic groups also living in the northern neighbour and Burkinabe immigrants. President Gbagbo on several occasions has claimed that Burkina Faso is supporting the political opposition to him. 

Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Outtara has been barred from participating in two elections on allegations he is a Burkinabe citizen - something that caused violent uprisings among his mostly northerner supporters. 

The exclusion of the great number of real and perceived Burkinabe immigrants (some say, there are 4 million) in Ivorian elections also have caused political violence. In Côte d'Ivoire, the Burkinabe government is said to be implicated. Ouagadougou denies this, but has on several occasions protested the harassment of its citizens living in Côte d'Ivoire, forming the backbone of the labour intensive cocoa industry.

Côte d'Ivoire, meanwhile, on several occasions had accused Burkina Faso of providing haven to armed Ivorian dissidents and allowing them to train. There was special reference to followers of Ivorian ex-military ruler General Robert Gueï and northern rebels, which had plaid an active role in the political upheavals in support of opposition candidate Ouattara. 

The ongoing mutiny in Côte d'Ivoire has further increased the focus on Burkina Faso's role in Ivorian politics. While the mutiny seems to be slipping into an uprising of Muslim northerners against the Christian majority in the south and west, foreign interference is increasingly suspected. Loyal government soldiers directed some of their first attacks against Burkinabe immigrants.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo

Tired of Burkinabe interference

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo

The Burkinabe government has denied all charges of an involvement in the Ivorian uprising, but the country still has increased its southern border security. The official explanation given to this in Ouagadougou was however that it was made "to prevent any infiltration of elements who may be hunted down from Côte d'Ivoire," according to the Burkinabe Security Minister, Djibril Bassolet.

Mr Bassolet denied media reports attributed to Ivorian Minister of Defence Moise Lida Kouassi that some mutineers drove into Côte d'Ivoire from Burkina Faso. His Ministry has however confirmed the presence of rebel troops along the Burkinabe border. In Ouagadougou, there is fear of getting involved in Ivorian military actions. 

While the verbal tension between Ouagadougou and Abidjan is heating up, little evidence of Burkinabe interference in Ivorian politics have been presented. While the Ivorian Ministry of Defence claims it has evidence of an armed column coming from a neighbouring state to reinforce the mutineers, this proof has still not been presented. 

Regional rough state
Burkina Faso's reputation as a regional rough state is however increasing by the Ivorian accusations. The alleged Burkinabe support to the Ivorian mutineers has been referred to in all international news agencies. Parts of the international press - namely 'US Today' - put great emphasis on the fact that Burkina Faso is a "Muslim country".

The blow to the country's reputation however comes as a result of the involvement in several dubious regional affairs. During the brutal Sierra Leonean civil war, non-diamond producing Burkina Faso suddenly turned into a diamond exporting country. Diamonds produced by the RUF rebels - terrorising the Sierra Leonean civilians for ten years - were the main economic engine behind the war. Also Angolan "blood diamonds" allegedly found their way to Burkina Faso.

Liberian President Charles Taylor

Close friend and ally of President Compaoré

Liberian President Charles Taylor

Burkina Faso was investigated for violations of international arms embargoes imposed on Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and Angola's UNITA rebels. A year 2000 UN report named Burkina Faso as a country of transhipment for internationally proscribed weapons flows to Sierra Leone and Angola. Ukrainian weapons sold to Burkina Faso in 1999 were found in large quantities among RUF rebels. 

The RUF and UNITA payments were made in diamonds and the revenues are supposed to have benefited only a close circle around Burkinabe President Blaise Compaoré. As international suspicion against the Burkinabe government grew stronger, the alliance with RUF and Liberia only became more fermented. 

Only last year, the Burkinabe government set up a new agency, the High Control Authority on Arms Imports and Use, following sanctions threat from the European Union. It also issued a statement "solemnly and firmly" condemning UNITA and the RUF. Burkina Faso's rough state image was improving.

President Compaoré however still holds strong personal ties with Africa's pariah - Liberian President Charles Taylor - whom he personally help into power in 1990. Burkina Faso then secretly had sent several hundred soldiers to Liberia in Taylor's support. Dissidents see this as proof that Compaoré still will be available for interventions in the region. 

Sources: Based on afrol archives

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