Is U.S. Imperialism Maneuvering Toward “Humanitarian Intervention” in Burkina Faso?

by Netfa Freeman, Black Agenda Report, May 1, 2024

As Burkina Faso attempts to move away from neo-colonial domination by France and the United States, the possibility of intervention via "humanitarian" channels grows more likely.

Western NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Western state-funded news outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA) are not merely consistent in siding with imperialism. They are extensions of it.

This must be kept in mind when attempting to understand why the African nation Burkina Faso suspended the radio broadcasts of BBC Africa and VOA for two weeks over their coverage of an HRW report.

On April 27, 2024, Burkina Faso’s Communications Minister, Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraog issued a statement that said in part, "The government of Burkina Faso strongly rejects and condemns such baseless accusations" referring to a report by HRW alleging that, on February 25th, the Burkinabe military carried out the extrajudicial killing of 179 people in Soro village and another 44 people in Nondin, at least 56 of whom were children.

Specifically, Ouedraogo was rejecting HRW's allegations that the Burkinabe authorities were unwilling to look into the alleged atrocities and he clarified that "The killings ...have led to the opening of a judicial investigation," citing a March 1, 2024 statement by a regional prosecutor.

A modus operandi used by imperialism against countries in its crosshairs starts with an established Western NGO, like HRW or Amnesty International, releasing a report or press release claiming an atrocity against civilians. This is then picked up and amplified by their “news” outlets like BBC, VOA, and, in this case, also Radio France Internationale (RFI), and France 24. This is done to both stir up confusion and dissent within the targeted country.

It would be naive to believe that the US and/or France will ever accept the loss of access and influence in the Alliance of Sahel States (Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso) which have expelled the French military from their territories. And now, Niger is planning to do the same to the U.S. This is why the French media have been making a fuss about the degradation of the security situation in the Sahel ever since their troops were expelled. They are suggesting that, without their help, Africans cannot achieve anything.

News about killings in Burkina Faso’s Soro and Nondin villages should not be rejected outright as a fabrication. It is likely that something occurred there. However, no reliable account can come from relying on HRW as the only source. HRW has a record of peddling half-truths, misinformation and outright lies in the service of imperialism.

HRW placed its reputation behind the White Helmets in Syria, which were exposed to be primarily a US and NATO-funded organization of charlatans.

The hiring practices of HRW have been criticized for being a revolving door of former US government officials, CIA operatives, and NATO war criminals. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, HRW lobbied Washington for more aggressive sanctions against the leftist governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua. During the Colombia Peace Process HRW’s position mirrored that of the country’s far right in that it prioritized sending human-rights violators to prison over wanting to end the war.

In their 137-page 2021 report entitled "Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia," HRW claims that the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 dam has displaced about 5,000 indigenous people and that the dam has negatively affected the fishery ecosystem. However, only 60 people were interviewed for the report, a sample size of less than 1 percent, an inadequate number for such an “in-depth” environmental study. Also omitted from the report was Cambodia’s process of resettlement and compensation for those impacted by the project and the evidence of improvement in the livelihoods of those resettled.

In the case of the West African countries of the Alliance of Sahel States, it must also be kept in mind that there are still sections of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger militaries that are loyal to their former comprador bosses. Blaise Compaore, who assassinated the revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, was the “elected” president of Burkina Faso for 27 years from 1987 to 2014. It stands to reason that not all of his influence has waned, including in the army. In fact, Compaore made a surprise visit to Burkina Faso two years ago at the invitation of then-president Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, under the false pretext of "reconciliation." Since Ibrahim Traoré came to power, there have been several failed attempts to overthrow him, probably by sections of the army still loyal to the ex-neo-colonial puppet. It should be expected that every effort will be made by the U.S., France, and the comprador class for the Alliance of Sahel States to fail.

Instead of considering and including this complexity and context about such elements and the likelihood of renegade soldiers who would undermine the Burkina Faso process from within by committing acts of sabotage, HRW and the so-called news outlets report the incident as “Burkinabe military engages in execution campaigns against civilians accused of collaborating with jihadist militants.”

The people of Zimbabwe are familiar with such tactics. They have endured millions of U.S. dollars being poured into sponsoring pirate radio stations and other "democracy" and "freedom of speech" media initiatives to disparage their land reclamation process. The stark double standards as the U.S. punishes Cuba with economically debilitating sanctions while rewarding the genocidal settler state of Israel with billions of dollars in aid go unaddressed by the outlets of HRW, BBC, and VOA.

These NGOs and media outlets are not as influential, or considered as credible in Africa and the rest of the Global South, as they once were. However, the other side of the double purpose they serve is to create confusion and manufacture consent within the Western countries as pretext and justification for more overt and aggressive intervention.

That the government of Burkina Faso has embarked on several decolonizing projects such as its $981 million plan to achieve food sovereignty that includes the creation of 100,000 jobs, establishing a new currency to break away from France’s CFA, and the construction of the country's first gold refinery , Burkina Faso's main mineral resource, is evidence that it is less likely that any such mass atrocity was directed or condoned by the current government. It makes more sense as a stealth method of imperialism to discredit the government. It would be out of character for a country embarking on those kinds of revolutionary changes to massacre its people for such flimsy reasons.

Given the relatively recent historic memory of Thomas Sakara and a Sakarist ideology and that it is taking the time to build revolutionary organizations, Burkina Faso represents the strongest and most revolutionary link within the Alliance for Sahel States. Its conditions are more suitable for developing better organized revolutionary structures and conscious cadres faithful to their process. Until a country can achieve this with some degree of success, it will remain vulnerable to fifth column subversion.

Anti-imperialists must be ready in case this episode signifies that imperialism is angling for another one of its superpower-backed attacks under the guise of ‘protecting’ civilians.

 

Netfa Freeman is an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and Co-Coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace’s Africa Team. And is also co-host/producer of the WPFW radio show and podcast Voices With Vision.

 

Posted May 5, 2024