Articles and Analysies
Djibrill Bassole' Tharwat Gassim
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Aug 26, 2008 - 8:43:12 PM

Djibrill Bassole'


 ( In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king )


Tharwat Gassim         [email protected]


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 ( Tanzania )    and UN envoy Jan Eliasson ( Sweden ) .  H.E  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.




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  interpreters.


        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 Africa,  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.




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.




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.




        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 Morocco   ( 1979-1982), followed by the National Military School in Abidjan in 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   in   Africa, in 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.




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 Togo,   Niger and Cote d’Ivoire.  This time around, H.E will be alone in Darfur.


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.




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 ?




        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:


        First: The 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 Darfur.


        Nonetheless, H.E will be  officially  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.

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