BY EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has refused to condemn the military takeover in Burkina Faso last month or call it a coup, instead adopting a weak statement expressing “serious concern about the unconstitutional change of government” in the West African nation.
A statement by the U.N.’s most powerful body was in sharp contrast to the reactions of the African Union and the West African regional group ECOWAS which both condemned the military’s Jan. 24 ouster of the elected government and suspended Burkina Faso.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council suspended Burkina Faso’ from “all AU activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country” while ECOWAS raised the possibility of sanctions against the country and called on the new rulers to propose a firm date for returning to democratic rule.
The coup came after months of growing frustration at the inability of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s government’s to stem a jihadist insurgency that has wracked the impoverished landlocked country of about 20 million people, killing thousands and displacing 1.5 million.. It is unclear what might change under the new junta, as the ill-equipped military has struggled to battle the jihadists linked to the al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups.
The initial draft of the Security Council press statement was weakened further at the insistence of Russia, according to U.N. diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity Thursday because negotiations were private.
The initial draft “demanded” the release of Kabore and other government officials while the press statement issued Wednesday night “called” for their release and protection.
Both drafts took note of the AU and ECOWAS suspensions of Burkina Faso from the organizations until constitutional order is restored, with the final draft expressing the council’s support “for regional mediation efforts” but dropping the initial specific reference to ECOWAS’ efforts.
Three of the 15 countries in the EOWAS bloc are currently suspended because of military coups: Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. On Feb. 1, security forces thwarted a coup attempt in another ECOWAS member, Guinea-Bissau.
Both the original and final drafts of the council statement expressed concern at the impact of unconstitutional changes of government in the region. The first draft singled out the impact “on good governance, regional stability as well as on regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.” The last version cited only the “increase in terrorist activities and the dire socio-economic situation.”
The Security Council statement was also much weaker than U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ condemnation of the coup.
Immediately after the coup, the U.N. chief said the military takeover was part of “an epidemic of coups around the world and in that region,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. And the U.N. chief called on coup leaders to lay down their arms and reiterated the U.N.’s “full commitment to the preservation of the constitutional order” and support for the people of Burkina Faso in their efforts “to find solutions to the multifaceted challenges facing the country,” the spokesman said.
Dujjarric was asked Thursday whether the secretary-general was upset that the Security Council took so long and didn’t respond as strongly as he did about the coup.
The spokesman replied that “the secretary-general’s position was clear.”
“We will look at the glass being half full, “ Dujarric said, “and I think it was good that the Security Council could come together and agree on language. “