Dutch Rights Group Wants Burkina Faso's Aid Reviewed

The Perspective
April 2, 2001

With sanctions against Liberia pending, the Dutch Justice and Peace Commission has petitioned the Dutch Government to review its economic assistance to Burkina Faso if that country remains involved in regional destabilization as documented by the UN Panel of Experts Report on the crisis in Sierra Leone.

In a letter to the Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation Mrs. E. L. Herfkens, the Dutch JPC noted that Burkina Faso's increasing role in regional destabilization necessitates a review of development and economic ties with that country if it continues to hatch rebellious plots against its neighbours. The Netherlands is one of the country's principal donors within the European Union.

The Dutch JPC's Secretary-General, V.M. Scheffers, in a recent letter, reminded the Government that the conditions for its development assistance to developing countries are the practise of good governance, respect for human rights, among others. But it said the UN report, among a series of other reports, indicates Burkina Faso under President Blaise Compaore is involved in destabilizing its neighbours. The JPC reminded the Government of the UN report which states that:

"The President of Burkina Faso is a close ally of President Charles Taylor and Burkina Faso has acknowledged the presence of over 400 Burkinabe soldiers in Liberia during the time Taylor was leading his rebellion in 1994 and 1995. Provision was made in the government budget to cover salaries for the services rendered during this period. Burkina Faso has repeatedly denied the involvement of its nationals in supporting the RUF. Eyewitnesses and former RUF combatants, however, confirm the active involvement of Burkinabes with the RUF. A Burkinabe, 'General' Ibrahim Bah (a.k.a. Baldé) - referred to in paragraphs 72-73 - handles much of the financial, diamond and weapons transactions between the RUF, Liberia and Burkina Faso. He shuttles regularly between Monrovia and Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso's involvement in weapons transfers is detailed below".

The human rights commission also reminded the Government of Burkina Faso's role in the purchasing and shipment of arms to Sierra Leone rebels as documented and reported by the UN Panel. In a similar letter to the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the organization urged the Government to endorse sanctions against Liberia because of its destabilization in the West African region. In view of such destabilizing roles within the region, the Commission noted, The Netherlands must use its influence within the European Union to ensure that Compaore desists from such practices. Burkina Faso recently deported a researcher from Sierra Leone who was in Ouagadougou to study possible links with that country to diamond smuggling from Sierra Leone.

President Compaore and Taylor have been allies for years. Burkina Faso was key in Taylor's rebel war spilling over to neighbouring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Both countries have accused Burkina Faso of backing their rebellions, although Ouagadougou has consistently denied the claims. The Dutch effort is seen as a concerted effort to end the sprees of violence that has reduced these countries to primitive levels. But one of Guinea's dissident soldiers, Gbagbo Zumanigui, fled to Burkina Faso after a failed mutiny. There are also reports of Burkinabe mercenaries roaming in Liberia and have become President Taylor's main bodyguard units.

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