DAKAR, Senegal (HPD) — The Burkina Faso government on Friday expelled the country’s top UN official with immediate effect, authorities said.
Barbara Manzi, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the West African nation, has been declared persona non grata, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Burkina Faso has been rocked by violence linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State extremist group that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people, creating a humanitarian crisis. Lack of faith in the government’s ability to stop the violence has led to two military coups this year.
While no reason for the expulsion was given in the statement, Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba said on state television Friday that Manzi had sounded the alarm about insecurity in the capital Ouagadougou without providing evidence.
“She claimed that she has information from reliable sources without agreeing to give any proof,” Rouamba said. He also noted that Manzi told him she was in contact with “terrorist leaders” and questioned how Manzi was able to easily access the besieged city of Djibo in the Sahel region while the country’s security forces could not.
Manzi, who is Italian, was appointed UN Resident Coordinator in August last year, often traveling to the hardest-hit parts of the country to try to raise awareness of the deteriorating humanitarian crisis. She has extensive experience with the UN, working as head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ukraine, Iraq, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Before Burkina Faso, she was the resident coordinator in Djibouti.
The United Nations did not immediately comment on the decision. Diplomats in Burkina Faso said they were taken by surprise, according to a Western official who was not authorized to speak to the media.