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As Burkina Faso Heads to the Polls

Burkina Faso goes to the polls on Sunday. As the country smatters under security challenges,threats from extremist groups could prevent people from casting their votes on the day of the election .

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Ahead of the Presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, amid escalating extremist violence that’s harvested over 2,000 persons this year and leaving millions of others distraught and displaced from their homes, the land of upright men finds itself at another epochal threshold of history.

When results of the November 2015 elections were announced, they were greeted with respite and excitement. 

Most Observers adjudged it as the most transparent and democratic ever in the country. They ushered in the first elected civilian leader in nearly 50 years, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré_CreditAFP

Earlier in the month at a rally in the country’s second most populous city, Bobo-Dioulasso, President Kaboré who is seeking a second five-year term promised to continue fighting until his country is secure.

Since taking office five years ago, Kaboré has been blamed for his inability to secure one of Africa’s most hopeful democracies.

Many had hinged their hopes on improved living standards, enhanced health care system, trial of the corrupt leaders, equity and social justice.

Credit_DW

Burkina Faso is almost slipping into a humanitarian disaster due to the debilitating activities of various terrorist attacks linked to al-Qaida and JNIM militants from neighbouring Mali.

Eddie Komboigo, head of the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) is his major challenger. He belongs to the party of former President Blaise Compaore. Compaore’s overthrow by a popular insurrection in October 2014 brought to a halt, an authoritarian phase that had dogged the country for decades. 

Komboigo explained that Burkina Faso was in a “catastrophe” and blamed Kaboré for being averse to the use of enhanced intelligence-gathering approach, dialogue, and a more diplomatic approach in the fight against terror.  

Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in the city of Ouhigouya in the north of the country. Credit_ ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images.

Under the slogan, “let’s save the country”, a third contender in the person of Zephirin Diabre, candidate for the Union for Progress and Change party (UPC) is running against Kaboré for the second time. Diabre who challenged Kabore in 2015 secured 30% in the polls. He wants the fractured nation to reconcile and present a formidable front against the gunmen. In his words, “you can’t fight the war and win it if you’re not united and together.”

For a country which had spent 49 of its 55 years of independence under military rule, if this election runs smoothly, it will be the second time in its history that an election proceeds without incident.

Electoral process in Burkina Faso

In a statement issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the UN Chief commended the Government, the political leaders and citizens of Burkina Faso for “upholding an atmosphere of mutual respect throughout the electoral process, despite the challenges facing the country.”

He further called on stakeholders to maintain this posture and ensure that the elections are conducted and decided in a peaceful and credible manner.

 The winner of the polls will need at least 50% of the total votes cast to win. While Kaboré is projected to be re-elected, the opposition seeks to split the vote, deprive the President of an outright win in order to form a coalition behind the strongest candidate for a second round. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) spokesperson says election results should be out between 48 to 72 hours after the completion of the polls.

This election will be a major test for the nation’s nascent democracy and a failure to ensure a transparent and peaceful election will offer terror groups operating in the region more material for its nihilist propaganda against the state.   

A wave of attacks in recent weeks has already threatens the legitimacy of the electoral outcome in the country as large swaths of the country will be unable to exercise its franchise.  Denying a large number of voters this inalienable franchise delegitimises the process and undermines the winner’s acceptability.

Burkina Faso’s voter apathy saw less than 2 million voters representing 10 percent of the population determine the emergence of President Kaboré.

Areas subsumed in violence account for at least 400,000 voters. According to its electoral commission, over 160,000 new voters, especially young adults were unable to get registered.

In spite of violence, many still thronged out to support their candidates

The mass disenfranchisement of this demography who are mostly rural voters and young people equally dents the legitimacy of the election. Any chance that opposition groups contest the election result or Extremist groups exploiting divisions within the country may throw the country into another round of highly destabilising deadlock.  

In August an electoral code triggered a law that says, in the event of “force majeure” (unanticipated situations preventing the organisation of elections in part(s) of the country), the election may continue based on the results from polling stations that remain open.

This supposes that election results will be considered binding even if people are unable to vote in parts of the country.

That is not all, two years ago, the National Assembly changed the electoral code to prohibit the use of widely used ‘consular cards’. The card issued by the Embassy to Burkina Faso citizens registered in its jurisdiction serves as voter registration document.

This year however, citizens must switch to a national ID card or passport. For those who do not have any, a new passport costs as much as 110,700 CFA Francs and not everyone currently has these documents. These modifications may keep thousands of persons from voting.

Burkinabé denizens in hard hit areas are apprehensive about exercising their franchise as terrorist groups continue to warn them against voting. Few days ago, terrorists backed groups took credit for the murder of 14 soldiers in Oudalan province. Another attacker threw an explosive into a mosque in the capital, Ouagadougou where many were injured.

Read also Court Clears 13 for Burkina Faso Presidential Election

Although similar incidents should be expected around polling stations, against voters, passers, and against authorities, the country’s security network must be on alert to ensure that the radical elements do not dictate the tempo of the polls.

The deployment of significant military reinforcements to flashpoints, probable hotspots and strategic locations around the country may offer reprieve for many and see a slightly higher number thronging out to entrust their fate and lives in a process that may, in the next five years mean life or death for them.

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Private Sector Key To Realising Sustainability Agenda In Africa – UN

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The United Nation Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed is asking African governments to leverage capital, technology, and manpower from industry to hasten realisation of sustainability agenda and pandemic recovery in the continent.

She made this call on Thursday during a virtual summit to discuss the role of business in the attainment of key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like poverty eradication, health, and gender parity in Africa.

Mohammed, in her remarks, emphasised that targeted investments from Africa’s indigenous businesses are required to catalyse inclusive growth in the continent amid COVID-19 linked economic shocks.

“The private sector in Africa should seize the opportunity to invest sustainably and create a peaceful, prosperous continent that is also resilient to the shocks triggered by the pandemic,” said Mohamed.

More than 2,000 delegates including policymakers, donors, and grassroots campaigners participated in the day-long virtual summit dubbed “Uniting Business for the Africa We Want: Decade of Action and Opportunities”.

The summit that was organised by the UN Global Compact in collaboration with local private sector networks in Africa, discussed market-led interventions that can revitalise the sustainability agenda in the continent.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General said that Africa requires private sector investments to address chronic underdevelopment, inequality, youth unemployment, and the public health crisis created by COVID-19.

“The business sector should be on the frontline of efforts to re-energise African economies and enhance their resilience to the pandemic by tapping into innovations,” said Mohammed.

She said that robust policies should be enacted to foster the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and tackle Africa’s gaping youth unemployment.

Hanna Tetteh, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to the AU said that businesses should embrace sustainability principles across their key operations in order to strengthen the response to the climate crisis, pandemics, and civil disruptions in Africa.

“We should utilise the energy, innovation, and creativity of African entrepreneurs to boost recovery from the pandemic, create decent jobs for the youth and strengthen cohesion,” said Tetteh.

Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director of UN Global Compact, on her part pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a reawakening among African businesses on the need to invest in programmes that transform local communities.

“African businesses have been working hand in hand with governments to help defeat the pandemic by providing communities with sanitizers, clean water, and protective gear,” said Ojiambo.

“These businesses are providing local solutions to the challenge of poverty, hunger, lack of clean water, and disease.

“Those actions have ensured the continent is closer to realising the UN 2030 goals and Agenda 2063,” she added.

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UK Sends Troops To Mali On Peacekeeping

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The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has sent the first of 300 British troops to Mali to join the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and bolster the organisation’s peacekeeping in the West African country.

The first of the British troops have already arrived in Mali, with the rest due to follow within a week.

The UK’s defence ministry says the force will join 14,000 peacekeepers from 50 nations, to protect Mali’s population from growing Islamist violence.

The British troops will provide MINUSMA with a dedicated long-range ground reconnaissance capability that has been lacking since soldiers from the Dutch 11 Air Mobile Brigade completed their last patrol in April 2019.

Most of the British troops are drawn from the Light Dragoons and Anglian Regiments who will be supported by a detachment from 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) unit.

More than 5,000 French troops have underpinned the operation, but President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to reduce his forces.

The mission to the Sahel region of Africa has been described as the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping deployment.

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Ethiopia, UN Strike Deal for Unimpeded Humanitarian Access To Tigray

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The United Nation on Friday announced that an agreement has been reached with the Ethiopian Government to allow “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian supplies to reach those in need across areas now under its control in Tigray.

The UN Headquarters in New York confirmed the details of the deal through its spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

Dujarric said that the safe passage of aid supplies and staff also extends to the Ethiopian regions of Amhara and Afar, bordering Tigray, where fighting between federal and regional forces, has impacted around six million people during the past month.

A UN statement said until now, no supplies have been allowed into the conflict zone, which has displaced thousands, many across the border into Sudan.

UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) spokesperson based in Nairobi, Saviano Abreu, said earlier that the first mission to carry out a needs assessment would begin on Wednesday.

He added that the UN was committed to engaging with “all parties to the conflict” and ensuring that aid was distributed “strictly based on needs”.

Dujarric said that all aid distribution would be carried out “in compliance with the globally-agreed principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality. This includes working to ensure that people impacted by the conflict are assisted without distinction of any kind other than the urgency of their needs”.

Many Ethiopians have also been internally displaced from Tigray, seeking refuge in Afar and Amhara, and the UN needs assessment would aim to reach those affected by the conflict, added Mr. Dujarric.

On Monday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) appealed to Ethiopia for urgent access to assist around 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray camps, who it was estimated had essentially run out of food.

Spokesperson in Geneva, Babar Baloch, said concerns were growing “by the hour, with hunger and malnutrition a real danger”.

Communications to the Tigray region continue to be severed, along with transportation routes, and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has reportedly rejected dialogue with Tigray’s regional leaders who are said to be on the run, after the regional capital was entered by federal forces last weekend.

The UN estimates that some two million are now in need of assistance in and around Tigray and some one million have been displaced by the fighting, including more than 45,000 who have fled across the border into Sudan.

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