Françoise Niamien, Paul Dah, English Africa Service - Vatican City
The Bishops of Burkina Faso met recently at the Paul Cardinal Zoungrana centre in Ouagadougou for their ordinary plenary assembly. Missing at the meeting were the Bishops of of Niger. Niger is a member of the joint Bishops’ Conference known by its French designation of Conférence des Evêques de Burkina Faso et du Niger. The Bishops of Niger could not travel to Ouagadougou due to Coronavirus related challenges. The border between Burkina Faso and Niger remains closed.
Apart from discussing and receiving reports of the various pastoral commissions of the Conference, the Bishops also focussed their attention on the country’s security situation as well as the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for 22 November.
A security situation “more worrying than ever”
The Bishops deplore the deteriorating security situation in the country, which has become “more worrying than ever” to the point that certain areas are now difficult to access for pastoral care. In these areas, parishes and Church institutions have been closed. There is also the massive displacement of populations fleeing the acts of terrorists. Faced with this insecurity, the Bishops call for “more vigorous and rigorous” action by the state.
The November presidential elections and COVID-19
The Bishops wonder what will happen to the newly internally displaced persons. The latter, risk being disenfranchised or excluded from participating in the November elections.
The Bishops urge the government to do all it can to minimise insecurity in the country but also mitigate against risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Both scenarios now threaten the November elections which the Bishops do not want to be postponed.
The Bishops futher urge all Burkinabè to cooperate with authorities so that the twin menaces of insecurity and COVID-19 will be defeated. In the end, the Bishops commend their country and its citizens to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the Queen of Peace.”
Local communities have been generous but cannot cope anymore
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, is on record expressing alarm over growing insecurity in Burkina Faso. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been driven from their homes. They now face the added uncertainty brought about by the onset of the new Coronavirus.
Xavier Creach, UNHCR’s coordinator for the Sahel region, warned the situation in Burkina Faso was rapidly becoming untenable with multi-layered crises risking a humanitarian catastrophe.
“Local communities have demonstrated remarkable generosity but cannot cope anymore. National capacities are overwhelmed. The armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic will generate further dramatic situations and displacement of populations. The clock is ticking, we have little time left,” he said.
Insecurity has now engulfed all 13 regions of Burkina Faso.