In his only major address during an official visit to Washington, D.C., His Excellency Djibril Bassolé, Foreign Minister of the Burkinabe government, devoted most of his remarks to the recent military putsch in neighboring Mali.
“A coup d’état does not reinforce the power of an army,” said the minister, whose background includes military and diplomatic assignments. “It diminishes the power of the armed forces and weakens citizens’ trust.”
Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on March 23, 2012, Bassolé said Mali needs powerful institutions to build great armed forces, and advised the new junta to work with all decision makers and state leaders to reach a deal that reinstates democracy and government legitimacy. The Foreign Minister’s appearance was jointly sponsored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and the Wilson Center’s Africa Program.
Following an introduction by Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, Director of the Africa Center, Bassolé told a packed lecture hall of diplomats, scholars, and journalists that he could understand the grief of the mutineers now in power in Mali, but could not support the path they have taken.
“War is not an answer to the situation in Northern Mali,” he said. “In fact, it [the war] unbalances the county’s budget because it increases military expenditures at the expense of health, social, and educational issues.”
The Foreign Minister talked about the state of affairs in Northern Mali, where nomadic Tuareg tribesmen who recently returned from serving in the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s military have been fighting the government for control of what they consider their ancestral lands. The Malian army mutiny, leaders said, was triggered by what they perceive to be President Amadou Toumani Toure’s mishandling of the Tuareg rebellion. Bassolé ruminated on whether Toure’s ousted government should have fought the Tuareg rebellion more forcefully.
In prepared remarks Bassolé, a former African Union/United Nations Special Representative in Darfur, also spoke about regional stability and security issues on the continent. He said most African conflicts could be attributed to unequal wealth distribution and the refusal of leaders to relinquish power, even after they lose elections. Citing national interests, he said Burkina Faso has been involved for decades in conflict resolution and creating peace throughout West Africa.
“Burkina Faso has millions of nationals all over the region. In fact, a great percentage of Cote d’Ivoire’s population, as an example, is of Burkina descent,” He said. “And we are a landlocked country. What happens in our neighborhood has a direct [economic and social] impact on us.”