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“Oh freedom– what crimes have been committed in your name!”

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Speech made by Bassolma Bazie, Foreign Minister of the

Transitional Government of Burkina Faso, at the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations, 23 September 2023, much acclaimed by the whole of Africa.

Translated from the original French text, summarised and commented by Peter Küpfer

 Bassolma Bazie, Foreign Minister of the Transitional Government of Burkina Faso, 

at the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations, 23 September 2023

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Burki- na Faso began his speech by bowing to “great  leaders”  who,  with  their  words and actions around the world, have advocated strengthening “the hopes for a humane, just and equal human community  with  its  spirit  and  its  will- ingness to sacriice”. Among writers, heads of state and human rights activ- ists, he named Fidel Castro (Cuba), Pa- trice Emery Lumumba (Democratic Re- public of Congo), Modib Keïta (Mali), Che Guevara (Argentina), Nelson Man- dela (South Africa), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya)  and  Thomas  Sankara  (Burki- na Faso) – leaders, many of them “ex- ecuted, condemned to languish in pris-

ons or fallen victim to poison attacks”. For those named, the only misdeed was to have been “encouraging examples of the dreams and hopes of their abused, raped and deprived peoples”.

Bazie emphasised the fact that taking the  loor  on  behalf  of  his  people  at  the United Nations, he was doing so “nei- ther  to  build  walls  of  complaint,  nor  to document a benign acquiescence: On the contrary, I have come here with a grave mandate  to  testify  that  state-sponsored

lies, diplomatic hypocrisy, lust for power, unrestrained pursuit of proit and the de- monic drive for the exercise of power and the exploitation of human beings by human beings are the open wounds that threaten the coexistence of us human be- ings and undermine all common work, in- cluding that of this our organisation, the United Nations.”

To illustrate that he was not alone in this view, the Burkina Faso Foreign Minister began by quoting four important voices, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Joe Biden (!). The Foreign Minister quoted Guterres as saying in his welcome address: “The world’s chal- lenges coalesced in an awful hellscape.

[…] bodies are washing ashore from the same Mediterranean Sea where billion- aires sunbathe on their super yachts.” Then he quoted Biden with the following

remarkable phrase: “[…] to join togeth- er with partners who share a common vi- sion of the future of the world, where our children do not go hungry and everyone

has access quality healthcare …” [Let us assume that by “our children” we mean

not only those of the so-called elites, but all the children of this one world of ours, pk]. Brazilian President Lula da Silva was quoted by the African representa- tive of Burkina Faso as saying: “There is a great dissonance between what we talk about and what we do, the facts; there is not a lack of capacity, but a lack of polit- ical will. The UN must carry out its task

of active support of a world of solidarity and justice as set out in the principles of the UN Charter.”

 

“The martyrdom of Libya will not be repeated with Niger”

 

These thoughts led Bazie to his main topic, the situation of his country and of the entire Sahel, as a region that is particu- larly hard hit by the aforementioned short- comings  in  the  functioning  of the inter- national community. To these failures, he added the following sins of omission, all committed by responsible heads of West- ern states and in open violation of the principles of the UN Charter, all actiona- ble, especially by the population of Burki- na Faso and by its neighbouring peoples:

the violation of human dignity, of the right to physical integrity, of the right to self- determination, of state sovereignty, of ter- ritorial sovereignty and inviolability, and

of respect for international law as laid down in the Charter.

Bazie cited the fate of Libya as a par- ticularly striking example of a country plagued by such neglect. Bazie began his remarks on this with an apology:

“Intellectual honesty and historical knowledge  demand  that  we  make  a sin- cere apology to the Libyan people for having sided, individually and collective- ly, out of condemnable passivity or out of unacceptable active complicity, with the executioners responsible for the irst, i. e. the human, catastrophe that Libya suf- fered and is still suffering.” This catas-

trophe, Bazie pointed out in this context, brought Libya to its knees, bled it dry and robbed it of its leader, even before monu- mental loods, the second, natural catas- trophe, have now caused new destruction. And unfortunately, in the irst, the human catastrophe, the United Nations played a key role with its Resolution 19701 and its culpable silence, a silence also shared by the complicit following of ECOWAS2 (French-directed West African Communi- ty of States) and the OAS3.

“The macabre intervention of that time,  spearheaded  by  Nicolas  Sarkozy’s France, led to the gruesome murder of the Libyan President, Colonel Muammar al- Gaddai, on 20 October 2011. If ever the condolences offered to the Libyan people at the time showed a modicum of sanity and were not hypocritical, then the con- viction has been established that such ma- cabre diplomacy must never be repeated in the case of Niger; there cannot and will not be a ‘second Libya’ there!”

Unfortunately, the speaker continued, hypocritical  diplomacy  is  at  work  again today. In this context, he sharply de- nounced the fact that Niger’s representa- tives were practically barred from joining the meeting.

“Burkina Faso strongly condemns this shabby manoeuvre, which relects

a medieval state of mind. […] On the contrary, we emphasise in the strong- est terms that the UN must under no cir- cumstances become a tool in the hands

of any state.” In this scenario, Bazie sol- emnly  appeals  to  the  peoples  of  Sene- gal, Bénin, Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire,  Comoros  and  Guinéa-Bissau, as  well  as  to  all  the  peoples  of Africa,

“to fortify each other in their fraternal feelings and African solidarity and to contribute in preventing the imperialists from covering Niger with blood and ire, as they did with Libya.”

Double standards in international conlicts

Without violating diplomatic language, Bazie  also  called  a spade  a spade  when it came to the Ukraine conlict, while, at least in German-language media, there is mostly a meaningful silence about Afri- ca’s battleields.

Just  as  many  governments  submitted to the fact that African organisations such as ECOWAS and the OAS often behaved unilaterally, he said, the UN was also prone to this divergence from its statutes, which call for equality. Bazie commented:

“The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is supported and fuelled by other powers.” But the United Nations should never be misused to participate in desta- bilising brother nations and assassinating their leaders.

Concerning the situation in the Sahel, he stated: “Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are in a war which has been imposed on them. This war was imposed on them by imperialism under the guise of terrorists from very different groups, the Al Quaïda au Maghreb islamique (AQMAl), the Is- lamic State (IS), the Jama’at Nusrat al- Islam wa-l-Muslimin (JNIM) and others. Despite the assertions of equality in the principles of the UN Charter, there is a deep chasm between the ways problems are addressed internationally. The case

of Burkina Faso testiiesto this. There, ci- vilian defence forces have spontaneous- ly formed themselves to stop the rampage

of invading terrorist armed gangs. They have organised themselves as ‘Forces de Défense et de Sécurité (FDS)’. They have been joined by similar civil defence asso- ciations, the‘Volontaires pour la Défense de la Patrie (VDP)’. In the meantime, these civilian armed resistance associa- tions have reached the considerable num- ber of 58,000 ighters. They are ighting the invaders under the instruction and control of the FDS leaders. They are pa- triots, described by certain heads of state and ECOWAS as ‘mercenary forces’. Now this is just one of those shabby state lies. If the international community were honest and sincere, such civilian engage- ments would not exist because then our people  would  not  have  to  defend  them- selves.”

In this context, Burkina Faso’s oficial representative mentioned the French-in- spired  backdrop  of  threats  with  its  “G5 Sahel”  and  the  hint  to  ECOWAS  to  im- mediately threaten intervention “to restore democracy”. In the meantime, everything had dissolved into nothing. Where was the UN´s defence of human beings and peo- ples, as demanded by the Universal Dec- laration of Human Rights?

In the meantime, Burkina Faso had been  subject  to  sanctions  since  30  Sep- tember 2022, France had tried to impose certain “ministers” on the transitional gov- ernment and had made its relations condi- tional on President Ibrahim Taoré’s carry- ing out France’s provisions concerning the fate of the country – all in vain, of course. In the meantime, France was trying to im- pose an embargo on military material that was vital for Burkina Faso’s survival.

“Here in the UN you often speak about the defence of human rights. Well, here, from this tribune, I ask you to supply us with our weapons immediately, so that we can ensure the defence and protection of

our war-wounded populations. This is a serious, well-founded request, and if it goes  unanswered,  history  will  hold  you accountable for not providing aid to vul- nerable people.”

On the question of “militias”, Bazie stated the following:

“Yes, Mr President, the ‘Wagnerian troops’ of Burkina Faso, that is us. That is the brave resisters of our federations, the

FDS and the VDP! […] Instead of being helped in the bloody struggle imposed on us, we are overwhelmed with ictitious ac- cusations,  shameless  state  constructs  of lies and hypocritical diplomacy that se- cretly  threaten  us,  want  to  impose  part- ners on us and tell us how to behave. To this we say no!”

Bazie went on in an even more com- mitted, even more insistent tone:

The peoples of Africa in general, he said, but especially those in the Sahel, were  resolutely  engaged  in  a movement aimed at their full emancipation and real social progress. “Because this is so, Burki- na Faso will come to a sovereign agree- ment with those partners from whom it will

obtain the means of defence it wants and needs.  Whether these partners are Rus- sia, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Nica- ragua, North Korea or others – Burkina Faso will buy its products in the places and deliver products to the places of its choice. It needs no middlemen for that and even less permission from outside, from whom- ever that may be, and this will remain that way, whatever may happen!”

Let’s face it, it’s all about Africa’s mineral resources!

After Bazie has put his inger on the fact that there are about 10,000 foreign troops active in the Sahel, most of them French army personnel, but also Americans, Ger- mans, Italians and others, all equipped with sophisticated and state-of-the-art weapons and search and reconnaissance equipment, supposedly ighting the ter- rorists, he gets down to “a mystery”: the hundreds of terrorists playing their bloody trade there are obviously not seen by these supposed terrorist ighters, despite their

high-tech equipment. And he adds some- thing  else:  “There  is  not  a single  arms and ammunition factory in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. So, who is equipping the terrorists? Who trains them, who sup- plies them permanently? Who feeds them – and  by  what  means?  And  why  do  the French get so nervous when they are told that they are not needed and should go home?”

Then it gets very concrete:

“The real reason for their presence lies elsewhere. As early as 1957, France was aware that immeasurable mineral re- sources rested in the ground in the Saha- ra region. The largest groundwater reser- voir stretches from Mauritania to Somalia, touching Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger, and

other countries in the Sahel. As early as 23 July 1957, ‘Le Monde’ states below the Sahara there is crude oil with a produc- tion  potential  of  6 to  7 million  tons  per year. Besides these natural resources, we have uranium, gold, cobalt, zinc, dia- monds, lithium, copper and more.”

This, he said, is the reason for the per- manent presence of European and Amer- ican troops in this part of the world, and not the ightagainst terrorism and for free- dom.

“If you Westerners love us Saheli- ans so much that you lead your soldiers here, that they lay down their lives here for democracy, freedom, human rights and peace, then why does the whole continent

of Africa, with its 1.3 billion inhabitants, with its 30.5 million square kilometres, the second most densely populated continent, not have a permanent seat on the Security Council and no right of veto?”

The speaker then recalls the statement

of François Mitterrand, who on 17 No- vember 1986 addressed the following words to Colonel Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary president who gave Upper Volta  the  name  Burkina  Faso,  “Land  of the Honest”, a year before the latter’s as- sassination. Mitterrand wrote to Sanka- ra: “Africa has been plundered. I spoke

of  mineral  resources.  But  I should  have spoken  of  men.  For  centuries,  you  have been robbed of men, women, and children. They have simply taken what they want- ed. I understand your refusal, your resist- ance, and I approve of your struggle. You are right to refuse to be part of a conti- nent that has been sacriiced.The moment has come for you to develop your econo- mies yourselves, starting from your goods and your people. And it is the duty of the countries that have so abusively proited from African labour to give back to Africa some of what they have taken from them

over the last centuries.”

Against this background, the alleged struggle of developed countries for free-

dom in countries where the clocks tick dif- ferently from those in the Western world becomes fully transparent, and the prod- ding sigh of the courageous speaker fully understandable:

“Oh freedom – what crimes have been committed in your name?”

These are the bare igures. But they in- clude fates. Bazie presents the following list of mineral resources that Africans still have despite centuries of exploitation:

– 30 % of the world’s mineral reserves, – 40 % of gold,

–  33 % of diamonds,

– 80 % of the world’s coltan reserves (e. g., for mobile phones!),

– 60 % of cobalt (for batteries, especially electric cars, 5–15 kg per battery!),

– 55 % of the world’s uranium reserves. And that is not all.

Bazie emphasises that the younger gen- eration is becoming more and more aware that these treasures must be irmlydefend- ed by them as well. This list is contrast- ed by quite different igures, which Bazie presents subsequently. 1.2 billion people worldwide are in a state of misery, [i.e., they don’t know if and what they will eat today, most of them don’t know where

meet with God’s mercy, from one day to the other. Back then our business was so prosperous that we could have opened a new shop every year.”

they  will  sleep,  not  to  mention  hygiene and disease, pk.]. 2000 billion dollars are spent on arming the USA. Worldwide, 20 times the budget of the UN is used to produce nuclear weapons.

Concluding remarks

The UN was founded at the end of the ca- tastrophe of the Second World War. Its founders  were  inspired  by  the  idea  that this should never happen again. The Char- ter of the UN and its Statutes are inspired by the idea that people and countries all

over the world should resolve their con- licts “in a spirit of brotherhood”.

In  view  of  the  facts  and  igures  cited by Minister Bazie, much of what moves us Westerners  seems  very  questionable. Can we work for peace when we live off the luxury that children create in dark, dangerous mines where some suffocate

or are buried? If they have not, instead

of starving to death, become child sol- diers. Bazie’s engaging voice makes a lot

of things understandable. Ultimately, the truth is brutally simple.

Despite everything, the speech con- cludes  on  an  optimistic  note. The  hard- pressed, bitterly poor states of Mali, Niger  and  Burkina  Faso  are  doing  what most people do, and what is also the state- building solid foundation of states. They join forces. In Bazie’s words at the end of his speech: “We are taking the problem of

our security into our own hands. We must count on our own forces, and we can do so, especially if we take care to exchange them with each other and if we make an ef- fort to dissolve blockages in our processes.”                                                                         

1 UN Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, which took the fact that the Gaddai government was resisting Western- backed armed uprisings and their leaders as an

opportunity to impose a comprehensive arms supply and light ban against Libya. Shortly af- terwards, armed intervention took place, irst

by French army bombers, then by NATO. It de- stroyed the entire country, which was subse- quently plunged into an ongoing civil war.

2 ECOWAS: West African Economic Community, currently consists of 15 states. It is dominated by Nigeria and had already been intervening militar- ily in Liberia at the beginning of the 1990s. After taking power in Niger, it threatened the new regime with military intervention.

3 OAS: Organisation of African States. In view of the diversity of its members’ state interests, its voice and signiicance are severely limited.

Sources:

“Discours de Bassolma Bazie devant la 78e As- semblée générale des Nations unies, 23 septembre 2023”, sur www. Lefaso.net (original unabridged text, French).

Full speech on video, in French: https://youtu.be/ yjg2zqLR-sA?si=l73PsUZAiwJAijuY

 

Source and translation: Current Concerns

 

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