( In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king )
His Excellency ( HE ) Monsieur Djibrill Bassole' ( 50 years ) , ex-minister of Foreign Affairs of Burkina Fasso, was appointed on 30th June 2008 as the chief
United Nations ( UN )/ African Union ( AU ) mediator for Darfur. He will be replacing the dual mediation team, composed of AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim (
and UN envoy Jan Eliasson (
Sweden ) .
is expected to start his official assignment from his Headquarters in Elfasher on Monday 25th August, 2008. We wish him luck in his complex and difficult assignment.If he eventually succeeds in breaking the
Darfur nut, he should be complimented twice ; otherwise once…for his effort.
In this article , we attempt to review
the relevant qualifications and relevant experience of H.E , which have landed him this prestigious post.We will try to be as
objective as possible, since we do not have any favours to curry with H.E.
H.E IS NOT FLUENT IN ENGLISH
You may have been surprised to hear H.E speaks
in French, through an interpreter. In
Sudan, French is as good as Chinese. You would be justified to ask yourself, how can H.E develop a personal rapport with the representatives of the Government of Sudan and with those of the rebel Darfuri armed factions, speaking to them,
as he does, through an interpreter.How can he communicate over the phone , with Abdelwahid in Paris , or with Dr Khalil in Ndjamena , or with the other ten-plus Darfuri leaders , scattered all over Africa and Europe. This should be an impossible task.
Furthermore, you need a common language to build confidence and trust with your interlocutors.Confidence and trust are necessary to snatch concessions from the two opposing parties. Dialogue and horse-trading cannot be effective , nor efficient through third party
Interpretation smothers privacy , and renders the talks formal and dry. The culture in
Sudan calls for privacy for any dialogue to be successful. Otherwise , and with the presence of an interpreter , the Darfuri rebel leaders will not be open. They will feel there is a wall that separates them from H.E. According to the culture in Sudan , it is similar to making love….you cannot do it with someone watching over your shoulders .Thus, they will not be forthcoming.The dialogue will therefore suffer,
and with it , the chances for a peace settlement.Again, in the culture in Sudan, the personal human touch coming with privacy , is an essential ingredient, and surely the backbone to conflict resolution.
Alas, this is missing , with H.E not being able to communicate with the rebels and Government representatives in private, and without the presence of a third party interpreter.
The mission of
H.E is therefore doomed before it started.
There are thousands of distinguished and eminent politicians in
who are either Anglophone or bi-language
( English and French). You find hundreds of them in Burkina Fasso. An example which comes to mind is Monsieur Francois Compaore , who did post-graduate studies in agroeconomics in the
USA , and who is an eminent politician in his country..Burkina Fasso.The question arises as to why the UN/AU have picked someone who is not fluent in English
( not to mention Arabic ) for this complex assignment. The answer to this question will be given later in this article.
H.E HAS NO UNIVERSITY EDUCATION
University education is not an objective in itself. But it is a key to sustainable knowledge. It opens the door and provides the opportunity for the accumulation , and acquisition of academic capabilities. Formal academic education provides the university graduate with the tools necessary to beat the frontiers of knowledge , in whatever discipline he chooses.
Furthermore, university education should broaden the scope , and sharpen the analytical capabilities of the graduate. He will thus be able to accurately assess a particular situation, identify the real problem(s) , and thus attempt to find the appropriate solution(s). University education should transform the tank in any graduate's head to an elastic tank, which increases in volume, as more knowledge is poured into it. The graduate thus has the opportunity to be broad-minded , inclusive and multi-disciplinary in his approach to any problem confronting him.
Therefore, it is no wonder that the culture in
Sudan has a great respect and deference for
the university graduate. A Sudanese
mother lovingly sings
to her child , hoping that he/she
will soon graduate and take care of her , and be her safety net. In the culture in
Sudan, a graduate has a key to the heart of any bride. The independence of
Sudan was indeed engineered
by the Graduates' Congress .Therefore, a graduate has a special place in the Sudanese society. He is someone.
Alas, H.E has not attended university and has no university degree in any discipline, not to mention political science or conflict resolution.According to the culture in
Sudan , he is not someone.
How can Abdelwahid, who is an accomplished advocate , or Dr. Khalil ( his title suffices to describe him ) , or the many other rebels who hold doctorate degrees in different disciplines, some of them even professors; how can such highly educated
Darfuri rebels have respect and consideration for a mediator who has not the basic university education. Some may even develop disdain towards him. Again, this is ingrained in the culture in
Sudan, which you cannot change for the sake of H.E. The UN/AU should have recognized and bent to these basics in Sudanese culture.
Summing up, the fact that H.E does not have university education does not auger for the successful termination of his mission.
H.E HAS NOT HELD AN ELECTIVE POSITION
The conflict in
Darfur is political . It needs a politically-minded mediator to resolve it. Politicians contest elections in their respective constituencies. They campaign , mix with the general electrate, explain their programmes ,do a lot of horse-trading and lobbying. And in the process accumulate a lot of savoir-faire in mediation and horse-trading.A politician normally attempts to round corners, gives and takes, and should be a potentially more appropriate mediator.
Alas, H.E never contested an election in his professional career ; and was never popularly elected to any elective position. He was a military man , who takes and blindly executes orders. Full stop.
This should be a grave difficiency in his (relevant) experience.The Darfur mediation assignment needs a seasoned politician who can , through his savy political approach, bring heads together, and identify common denomenitors .As the Darfuri popular saying goes, one-dimensional bureaucrats/military personnel , who follow and execute orders,
and who lack political vision , should mimic frogs , and keep away from mediation waters , which could be too hot for them.
H.E should heed the Darfuri popular saying , before it is too late.
IS A CONSUMMATE MILITARY MAN
From the Prytane'e Militaire of Kadiogo in Burkina Fasso, H.E joined , at the early age of 22 years, the Royal Military Academy of Meknes in
( 1979-1982), followed by the
Cote d'Ivoire ( 1982-1983). Upon graduation in 1983, at the age of 26 years, he joined the army of his country, first in the military brigade in Bobo ( 1983-1984), then in Ouaga ( 1984-1987). In late 1987, H.E was
catapulted to become
the commander of the 5th military groupement in Ouaga ( 1987-1995)
, due to loyal services rendered to
Blaise Compaore, the current President of Burkina Fasso, who had masterminded a bloody
coup d'etat and took over power from Thomas Sankra on 15th October 1987. Thomas Sankra was assassinated in that coup d'etat.Henceforth, the rise of H.E in the State infrastructure
was fulgurant. He was immediately promoted again to become personal adviser to the now President Compaore
(1995- 1999 ) and subsequently
( 1999- 2007) commander - in - chief of the army, state minister for security under the Minister of Defence, and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs
, before landing his present assignment as UN/AU chief mediator for Darfur in June 2008.
The military training of H.E outside Burkina was all carried out
Morocco and then in
Cote d'Ivoire; his professional career was limited to his home country , Burkina. H.E was a disciplined soldier who rose quickly in the ranks of the army in Burkina to become its commander- in- chief , barely 16 years after graduation. The reason for this meteoric
rise is explained above.
H.E 'S MEDIATION EXPERIENCES
As indicated above the president of Burkina , Blaise Compaore, a military man, seized
power from his military colleague , the legendary Thomas Sankra, in a bloody coup d'etat on 15th
October 1987 , and continued as President of Burkina, without interruption for the last 21 years.As an old hand in the presidency , compared to his other colleagues
in the sub-region ,
and being closely associated with France, he developed a paternalistic
penchant for conflict resolution , which conflicts were rampant in his sub-region. Accordingly, he mediated a
conflict in neighbouring Togo.Under his instructions and guidance, H.E Bassole' was able , within some lean weeks , to arrange for the conflicting Togolese parties to sign a peace agreement in Ouaga , in July 1993. Subsequently, President Compaore appointed H.E Bassole' to represent Burkina Fasso in the regional multi-country mediation committee of the Touareg problem in neighbouring Niger.This regional mediation ended with a peace agreement in Ouaga in April 1995.
Again , under the auspices of the President of Burkina and with the help of H.E, a peace agreement was signed in Ouaga on 2007 between , the then and
current President of Cote d’Ivoire and its
current Prime Minister ( who was at that time , leading a rebel faction called New Forces ).
The above were the triple
experiences of H.E Bassole' in mediation , one (
Togo ) directly under
the guidance and instructions of President Compaore. The second (
Niger ) within the context of a multi-country
regional mediation committee. The third
Cote d’Ivoire ), under the direct
guidance of President Compaore
Unfortuantely, President Compaore will not be around to offer counsel and guidance in the Darfur crisis, which is far more complex and complicated than the smaller problems in
This time around, H.E will be alone in
To sum up, the crisis in
Darfur is not military and does not call for military expertise. H.E would have been more qualified to head the UNAMID force in
Darfur , given his exclusive military background.
H.E HAS NO STRATEGY FOR
During a press conference , H.E declared that he is yet to study the problem in
Darfur , and has not developed a strategy yet. But he confirmed that he would be personally loath to regional/international conferences to resolve it.You should have been flabbergasted to hear such a declaration.You were expecting that before his arrival in Khartoum, H.E would have studied the files on Darfur , and developed an intimate first-hand knowledge of the problem. He should have assembled background files on each and every rebel movement , with photographs of their respective leaders and their C.Vs. H.E should have been able to tell you if Abdelwahid prefers tea or
coffee, pepsi or coca cola.
Alas, H.E was blank . He is learning on the job. The longer his learning takes, the better for his personal bank account , and the more casualities and displaced in
Darfur. But , who cares ?
HOW DID H.E LAND THIS ASSIGNMENT ?
The not-so-kind tongues among the observers in
New York and
Addis Ababa, claim that the reasons for the appointment of H.E are twofold:
USA is a land of lobbies par excellence. The jewish lobby controls the
US foreign policy , as documented by two leading
US academics. The firearms lobby pushes so hard , that the annual defence expenditure of the
US exceeds 650 milliards US dollars; and so on and so forth. The United Nations Secretariat in
New York is no exception. Burkina Fasso is a current member of the United Nations Security Council ( UNSC) . Hence , the representative of Burkina Fasso in the UNSC carries a special weight with the UN Secretay-General.
Accordingly, the representative of Burkina Fasso in the UNSC , lobbied hard with the UN Secretary-General for his boss H.E Bassole' ( the then Foreign Minister of Burkina )
to get the
Darfur assignment, although the
latter lacks the relevant qualifications and experience.
Second: Monsieur Jean Ping,
the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Gabon , and the newly elected President of the African Union,
owed his election to his current position , in part , du to the determined support of
his chummy and bosom friend H.E. Bassole' ( the then Foreign Minister of Burkina ).
It is all a game of ascenseurs, to the disadvantage of the wretched in
Nonetheless, H.E will be
ensconced in his prestigious postion on Monday 25th August, as chief UN/AU chief mediator to the satisfaction of ALL concerned in Sudan.The naked pharao marches through the streets of Sudan, without anyone noticing , except for this small boy , who is writing these lines , which nobody will care to read or ponder.Nobody seems to see any naked pharao , nor any
elephant in the room. In
Sudan they are all blind.
Surely in the land of the blind , the one-eyed man is king.