Burkina Faso, that desert landlocked west African country located in the Sahel, might be facing its thornest path to unpredictable political situation. With an approximate 22 million population, majority impoverished largely due to misplaced state planning by the previous political leaders, Burkina Faso has been severely affected by the rise of militant terrorist attacks since the mid-2010s.
Burkina Faso is not alone. Across the Sahel region, neighbours feared the jihadist insurgency might spread further down from Burkina Faso to coastal neighbours including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin. Nigeria is already consistently fighting Boko Haram and other militant groups.
According to several media reports, Burkina Faso has allegedly made an agreement with Russia’s Wagner Group in which the shadowy mercenary outfit will help the west African country deal with surging jihadi violence in exchange for a mine.
Russia is broadening its geography of military diplomacy covering poor African countries and especially fragile states that need its military assistance. It has, during its past two decades of raising its economic influence and fight French neo-colonial tendencies, bartered military equipment to have complete access into mineral resources in Central African Republic, Guinea, Mali and Chad. There are similar cases in Sudan and Libya.
Last year, it suffered two military coups, heavily condemned by the regional bloc (Economic Community of West African States), and the continenal organization (African Union). Both the ECOWAS and AU withdrew Burkina Faso’s membership and further imposed some restrictions on the country for its military unconstitutional ascension to political power.
The ECOWAS and AU have also expressed collective concerns about any use of private mercenary forces, instead of well-constituted regional forces approved by regional blocs, as a means to address conflicts in Africa.
During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held December 13-15 in Washington, the White House did not invite Sudan, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso because they are currently suspended by the African Union following coups and counter coups in Africa. These countries are simply not in good standing with the Africa Union.
Reports indicated that the United States has dropped Burkina Faso from its African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The main reason is that United States operates within the framework of protocols of the African Union, and thus Burkina Faso is no longer and logically qualified for the AGOA trade preference program. The United States’ Trade Office said Burkina Faso had failed to meet the requirements of the AGOA statute.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the United States if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.
Frustrations over the government’s inability to curb an insurgency spurred two military coups in Burkina Faso in 2022. Late December, Burkina Faso’s military government ordered Barbara Manzi, who is a senior United Nations official, to leave the country, a decision that was contested by the United Nations.
Burkinabe Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, reacted to the decision by repeating a November statement saying the timetable for a return to democracy had not changed. It had committed to returning to constitutional rule in 24 months in a July agreement with the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries. It is agricultural, but said to have been mining copper, iron, manganese, gold and phosphates. Despite its political crisis, Burkina Faso utterly refused to observe the protocols of the ECOWAS and African Union. And the United States shows readiness to cooperate with African partners within the protocol principles and the framework of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.