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Burkina Faso expels senior UN official for 'discrediting country'

Protesters stand atop a United Nations armored vehicle as tension simmers in Ouagadougou on October 2, 2022, two days after the country's second coup this year. (Photo by AFP)

Burkina Faso's military government has ordered senior UN coordinator Barbara Manzi to leave the country by the end of the day, declaring her “persona non grata,” the foreign ministry has said.

In a statement released on Friday, the foreign ministry ordered the Italian UN resident coordinator in the West African landlocked country to pack up and leave, without giving any official reason for the expulsion.

"Ms. Barbara Manzi, resident coordinator of the United Nations system, is declared persona non grata on the territory of Burkina Faso. She is therefore requested to leave Burkina Faso today, December 23, 2022," the statement said.

According to the Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba, Manzi’s decision to "unilaterally" withdraw non-essential UN staff from the capital, Ouagadougou, was the primary reason for her expulsion.

“We find it inconceivable because the decision was taken unilaterally, we don't have the evidence or the indicators relating to it. And beyond that, President Ibrahim Traoré contacted Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the day before yesterday who said he was not aware of such a decision,” Rouamba reasoned.

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The withdrawal "discredits and tarnishes the image of the country and puts off potential investors. It's unthinkable and we have to take responsibility," she told national television.

A decision that "risks placing the country in a delicate situation, at a time when Burkina Faso is in dire need of partners to face the security and humanitarian crisis.”

She also stressed that Manzi had “predicted chaos in Burkina Faso in the coming months," adding that the UN should act as a "support structure" as the country battles a bloody jihadist insurgency.

The development comes on the heels of expulsion of two French nationals, who were working for a domestic company, on espionage allegations.

Only appointed in her post last summer in August 2021, Manzi now finds herself accused of being a negative influence and of "interfering in the political affairs of Burkina," AFP quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

Previously, she had served in similar roles in Djibouti, Ukraine, Iraq, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

A spokesperson at the UN headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been engulfed with the influence of terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh that have killed thousands of its citizens, creating one of the fastest growing humanitarian crises in Africa.

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