U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has condemned the military’s seizure of power in Burkina Faso and is calling for a swift return to civilian rule.
The high commissioner is calling on the coup leaders to immediately release President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and other high-level officials. Michelle Bachelet is urging the military to engage in meaningful dialogue with all sectors of society to restore the hard-won democratic gains that have been made in the country.
Bachelet’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, accompanied the high commissioner on her visit to Burkina Faso at the end of November. She says there were evident signs of popular discontent with the government’s inability to handle the multi-faceted crises facing the country.
“You had climate change affecting the ability of herders and pastoralists to carry out their daily work and conflict as a result of climate change and that crisis. And then you have violent extremist groups attacking, coming through the porous borders of the country and launching increasing violent attacks against the local population,” she said.
Burkina Faso is also facing a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations estimates 3.5 million people need international aid to survive. It says nearly all, some 3.3 million people, are facing acute food shortages.
Shamdasani says U.N. monitors on the ground describe the situation as calm for now. But this may change during planned street protests.
“There are people protesting in support of the military coup, as well," she said. "Those who are frustrated with what they perceive as ineffective measures taken to address the conflict. But again, we stress that a military takeover is not the solution.”
She says it is more important than ever to ensure the rule of law and the country’s obligations under international human rights law are fully respected. Shamdasani says it is crucial that people’s democratic rights are protected and that they are able to air their grievances without fear.