Senate Confirmations: Bitter, Kim, Young, Symington, Donovan

Posted: 1:38 am ET
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The U.S. Senate confirmed the following ambassador nominations on Wednesday, September 28. Five nominations included in SFRC’s business meeting on September 27 did not make it to the full Senate vote (see bottom list).  About 17 other ambassador nominations and FS lists are currently pending in committee and do not have scheduled hearings as of this writing.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Executive Calendar #728
Rena Bitter – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Executive Calendar #729
Sung Y. Kim – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of the Philippines

Executive Calendar #730
Andrew Robert Young – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to Burkina Faso

Executive Calendar #731
W. Stuart Symington – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Executive Calendar #732
Joseph R. Donovan Jr. – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Indonesia

 

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #733
Christopher Coons – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Executive Calendar #734
Ronald H. Johnson – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

 

Waiting for full Senate vote:

The following nomination and FS lists were in the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but appear not to make it through the full Senate vote. Note that the hyperlinked lists are those posted in the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

Ms. Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia

Jorge A. Abudei, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1704), as amended — (PN1704-2)

John Robert Adams, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1705) – (PN1705)

Jennisa Paredes, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1643), as amended — (PN1643-2)

Diana Isabel Acosta, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1642), as amended — (PN1642-2)

 

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#BurkinaFaso Attack: Gunmen Storms Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou

Posted: 6:52 pm EDT
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BBC is reporting that two car bombs went off outside the Splendid hotel at around 19:30 local time (same as GMT) in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Masked men have reportedly stormed the Splendid Hotel, which is used by UN staff and westerners, witnesses said. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims credit for ongoing attack and there are reportedly hostages according to media reports.

The French Embassy in Ouagadougou says that the incidents happened this evening around 20:30 at the Splendid Hotel, frequented by westerners.  The embassy notes on Twitter that the curfew has been extended from 11 pm to 6 am. It also says that an  Air France flight from Paris-Ouagadougou on Friday night was diverted to Niamey, Niger.

The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou tweeted that it is aware of what is happening and that it is following closely the ongoing situation in downtown Ouagadougo. It has also instructed embassy personnel to avoid the downtown area.

 

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State Dept Terminates “Authorized Departure” Status of Embassy Ouagadougou

Posted: 2:40 am EDT
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On September 21, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso went on “authorized departure” status for eligible family members and non-emergency personnel (see U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure).  On October 9, the State Department announced the termination of the “authorized departure” evac status of U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou. Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform U.S. citizens that the Department of State on October 9 terminated the “Authorized Departure” status which allowed eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou to voluntarily depart the country on September 21. As a result of the termination of “Authorized Departure,” eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burkina Faso may now return. The decision to allow the return of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel has been made because of improved civil conditions which include the reopening of the airport and the resumption of commercial flights to and from the country. The transnational military and police forces also appear to be, again, firmly in control; and the transitional Government President, Michel Kafando, has been reinstated. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on September 21, 2015.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the risks of travel to the countryand, if already in Burkina Faso, review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members should remain. There is still the potential for sporadic civil disruptions throughout the presidential and legislative elections period, including demonstrations, which can be spontaneous and occur with little-to-no advance warning throughout Burkina Faso. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices. Try to avoid political rallies, campaign events, polling stations, demonstrations, protests, and other large gatherings in the weeks before and after elections; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets. U.S. citizens should maintain adequate supplies of food, water, essential medicines, and other supplies to shelter in place for at least 72 hours should this become necessary.

Read more here.

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U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure

Posted: 11:51 pm EDT
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On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff during a military coup that occurred less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power (see US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt).

On September 21, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Burkina Faso recommending that U.S. citizens in the country depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” It also notified the public that the State Department has authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burkina Faso depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This Travel Warning is being issued to notify U.S. citizens that on September 21, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.  U.S. citizens are urged to carefully consider the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and, if already in Burkina Faso, encouraged to review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members, should depart.  U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.  Citizens who decide to remain in Burkina Faso despite this travel warning should maintain situational awareness at all times and register their presence within Burkina Faso with the Embassy by enrolling in STEP.  This Travel Warning supersedes and replaces the Travel Alert issued on September 4, 2015.

Embassy staff remaining in Burkina Faso continues to shelter in place.  The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou will operate at reduced staffing levels and will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) took control of the presidential palace during the weekly council of ministers meeting the afternoon of September 16, detaining President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two additional members of the cabinet of ministers.  President Kafando and others have since been released, but Kafando remains under house arrest.  Prime Minister Zida remains in detention.  Former special chief of staff responsible for the RSP General Gilbert Diendere was declared to be in charge of Burkina Faso following the establishment of a “Conseil national pour la democratie” (CND, the National Council for Democracy).

The security environment in Ouagadougou remains fluid.  Gunfire continues to be reported in locations throughout Ouagadougou.  Elements of the RSP have set road blocks and have engaged in crowd control measures. Civilians have also established roadblocks around the city.  The level of activity on the street has diminished, and many businesses providing essential services—including food, gasoline and cooking fuel—remain closed.  Local electricity and water utility providers have declared a strike, which could further decrease the level of services provided to residents.  A nationwide curfew remains in place from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Outside of Ouagadougou, the security situation varies, but remains dynamic and susceptible to change at any moment.  There have been reports of demonstrations in Bobo-Dioulasso, Gaoua, Fada N’Gourma, and Ouahigouya.  Due to reports that roadways between major cities may be impassable, U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

Read in full here.

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US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt

Posted: 2:06 am EDT
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A Travel Alert was issued for Burkina Faso in early September (see Travel Alert Burkina Faso (September 3, 2015). On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff amidst what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power.

On Wednesday, September 16 the U.S. Embassy received reports that military elements are holding the President, Prime Minister, and other Cabinet Members hostage.  Civil society organizations are calling for demonstrators to gather at the Place de la Nation (also known as the Place de la Revolution) and at the Presidential Palace.  Road blocks near the Presidential Palace have been established.  Gunshots have been fired in various locations in Ouagadougou. Embassy employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice.  

Likewise, we urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to shelter in place.  U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment.  Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings.  Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.

The Embassy also released the following statement:

Recent Actions By Elements of the Presidential Guard in Burkina Faso

“The United States is deeply concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso. We call for the immediate release of President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and all other officials being held.

The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force.

We call for an immediate end to violence, urge the military personnel involved to return to their primary mission, and reaffirm our steadfast support for the civilian transitional government to continue its work of preparing for free, fair, and credible elections on October 11.”

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Burkina Faso’s Revolution. Or the day mama jumped in the pool fully clothed.

— Domani Spero
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One of our readers pointed us to this MamaCongo blogpost (thanks A!).  We’ve requested and was granted permission by the author to excerpt it here. She is the country representative of the Mennonite Central Committee,  a nongovernment organization operating in Burkina Faso, and a marvelous storyteller. In the post below, she tells us a slice of life amidst a crisis in a foreign land. Reminds us of Four Globetrotters’ blogpost about what an FSO and her colleagues went through during the attack of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis in 2012 (see Attack here).

The following post from MamaCongo is a first person account of an American expat during the recent  revolution in Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in the center of West Africa with one of the highest poverty rates in the world.  According to Diplomatic Security’s Crime and Safety Report, Burkina Faso was also rocked by several months of protests, civil unrest, and lawlessness in 2011. In the event of lawlessness or protests by armed groups, including such incidents perpetrated by soldiers and police, the official advice is to seek a safe location, remain indoors, and shelter in place.  The shelter in place advice, of course, that does not work, if the house you’re in is a target for burning, and looting,, as was the case here.

 

There is a shoutout in the blogpost for Kristin, an FSO at our embassy in Ouagadougou.  For all the consular officers and duty officers out there who seldom get a mention for their work, this one’s for you. And those French, by heavens, they remain cool and collected with smokes and drinks even in a crisis?

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Burkina Faso’s Revolution. Or the day mama jumped in the pool fully clothed.

by Sarah Sensamaust
excerpted
from MamaCongo

It’s taken us a bit of time to process Burkina Faso’s recent uprising, or revolution, or coup, or junta, or whatever you want to call it. Granted we’re not Burkinabé nor were we anywhere near the front lines, but our expat lives were a bit shaken up. I mean, we’re not in Congo anymore so life should be easy peasy for goodness sake.

In short, Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso’s longtime president of 27 years, decided he wanted to change the constitution to extend term limits. But folks had another idea. As in, on the day of the vote thousands of people mobilized to stop it.

On that morning, we planned to introduce the director of our organization (who was visiting from the States – perfect timing) to participants we work with at the prison. No big deal, Adam would take him in the morning before the vote results were announced. I’d stay back in the office and hold down the fort. Of course no one else was dumb enough to come to work that day. So there I sat alone while they headed off to the prison.

About the time they arrived at the prison, the city exploded. Tens of thousands of people protested and then attacked the parliament building setting it on fire. There was gunfire, then helicopters dropped tear gas. I spent the morning pacing up and down the office hallway. Convincing myself my eyes were burning from really intense dust and not tear gas. I also sent messages to Jill because how can this be happening and I have no one to talk to?!

I won’t mention how many paces it took me to remember my children playing outside a few blocks away. But I did eventually call Anastasie and ask her to take the girls inside and close the windows. Clearly she had already done this. Because tear gas.

Meanwhile at the prison, a mob had gathered outside and began banging on the doors, so needless to say, Adam and our director were stuck inside. I’ll keep this exciting part about Adam short due to his issue with reading long posts and all: Prison guards quickly change into military uniforms. Everyone running. Adam stuck inside. Me thinking it’s slightly funny he’s got himself and our director trapped in a prison during a coup. Me waiting a long time, not thinking it’s so funny anymore. Crowds getting bigger. Me making lots of phone calls and driving back and forth through protestors to attempt to free them from prison. They eventually escape with zero help from me. 30 minutes later factory across from the prison is looted and burned. Revolt later that day in the prison and 3 people killed. Us breathing sigh of relief.

The stuck in prison situation is the kind of experience I’m happy to have had when it’s over. It was equal parts tense and exciting and it makes for a good story. All’s well that ends well. We are safe and sound at home. Boy was that crazy! So glad this whole revolution thing is over. I put up a semi-clever post on Facebook with a synopsis of the day. We’re proud of ourselves for distracting our children from the gunfire. They didn’t even notice! We’re so cool. Goodnight.

Compaoré resigned the next morning and left the country in a heavily armored motorcade. A general in the military was then named interim leader. Turns out this guy was not so popular and the city erupted once again. Oh wait, this revolution thing isn’t over yet?

A tactic that proved quite effective the day before was the burning and looting of former Compaoré government official’s houses along with those of his relatives and friends. A house a few blocks in front of our’s was burned as well as another house behind us. We got word that our next door neighbor’s house, with whom we share a wall, was next on the loot and burn list. A mob was on its way. Our neighbor on the other side yelled for us to quick get out of our house.

It’s safe to say this was not my calmest moment in motherhood. I went into full panic mode and ushered my children next door – to the safe neighbor’s house. We’ve been down this leave-the-house-and-all-of-your-belongings road before in Congo, so I grabbed their growth chart off the wall, the baby quilt and the princess dresses. Because I can hide from our children the fact that our house has been burned to the ground, but they’re definitely going to notice if their princess dresses are missing.

We took shelter next door. And again the pacing sets in. At this point we crossed a line we had never crossed before. Our children were scared and crying and asking what was going on. Guards were gathered in the road. And everyone was just waiting for the inevitable to happen. It didn’t ease our minds that a document had been looted from the president’s brother’s house, photocopied in mass and distributed throughout the city listing the addresses of houses that the president had bought for his friends. Our neighbor’s house number was #2 on the list.

I kind of just wanted the looters and burners to show up so it could just happen and be over. Someone suggested I call the embassy. After 6 years in Congo, I have their emergency number on speed dial. I don’t know how many times in Kinshasa I had to call an annoyed 18-year-old Marine and explain how we got our car booted in the middle of the road again.

Here in Ouagadougou it’s a kind woman named Kristin, who bless her heart, must have been a 911 operator or worked at a suicide prevention hotline in a previous life. She was so sweet and encouraging and for the first time since this whole ordeal began, I was talking with someone to whom I didn’t need to show a brave face. I started to tear up, so I took myself into my neighbor’s garage and had a good cry with dear, sweet Kristin. (Kristin, I hope you never read this. I would like to remain the anonymous, unstable expat caller.)

For whatever reason the mob had yet to come and it’s clear that pacing at our neighbor’s house all day was not a good plan for anyone. So we scurried across the street to distract our children and let them swim at the pool of our neighborhood French compound.

And folks, I kid you not. Those Frenchies were smoking and drinking and having a grand old time behind their wall, not 20 feet away from our panic attack across the street.

Our girls soon forgot their trauma and swam and joined in the carefree French time. Meanwhile, Adam and I were poolside sending emails and making hurried phone calls to our organization’s headquarters in the States, all the while keeping an ear out for approaching angry mobs.

At this point, as if our world had not stopped already, I glanced in the pool and Ani was bobbing and gasping for air in the deep end. So naturally, I jump in the pool, in front of all those relaxed French folk – fully clothed, leather clogs and all – to pull that poor girl out.

I swear to you, at this moment another military plane buzzed overhead and after the near-burning of our house and the near-drowning of my child, I took a moment to tread water and have a mini breakdown right there in the pool. I’ll never forget Adam and our director looking down at me, offering hands to help me out. But I just stayed. And treaded water. And cried.

And then my loving husband said, “That was crazy. It was kind of embarrassing that you had to jump in the pool like that to save her, but none of these French people even noticed. No one turned their heads. How are they so cool about everything?!”

I spent the rest of the day sitting by the pool. Sopping wet. You know, because of no spare clothes due to being evacuated from my house and all. Then after the curfew set in (which is announced in the curious way of police going through the streets and shooting in the air) our house was still standing and it was deemed safe to go home.

Our neighbors in question had rallied their burliest male relatives to set up camp outside their house to protect it. We managed to fall asleep that night, but it’s practically impossible to distinguish between the noises of a mob of men guarding a house and a mob of men attacking a house.

We debriefed with the girls and asked them how they felt when we had to leave our house and run next door. Because afterall, they were upset and scared and I don’t want that coming back at us in adolescence.

They didn’t really seem to remember it, so we didn’t press it. They were too distracted and confused about why mama jumped and cried in the pool. “No really, why were you crying in the pool?” they asked, “And why didn’t you put on your bathing suit first?” A full month later, they are still talking about this. “Hey! Remember that time mama jumped in the pool with her clothes on?!”

Thank the lord they’re not asking, “Remember that time we ran screaming from our house because we thought it was going to burn down?”

There’s more.  Read the entire blogpost here via MamaCongo.

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State Dept Issues Burkina Faso Travel Alert (Expires on January 29, 2015)

— Domani Spero
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We’ve previously blogged about Burkina Faso here (see Burkina Faso Says Bye Bye Blaise: Martial Law Lifted, Nationwide Curfew, Shelter in Place Still OnUS Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place; Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

Yesterday, after three days of chaos, the State Department issued a Travel Alert informing U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Burkina Faso following the fall of the government of  President Compaore:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to or residing in Burkina Faso and recommends U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel.  This Travel Alert will expire on January 29, 2015.

On October 31, Burkina Faso’s President Compaore resigned.  The status of a transitional government remains unclear.  There are incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country.

The situation is dynamic and closures or openings of border and airports are likely to change and remain unpredictable for some time.  Currently, land and air borders have been closed.  U.S. citizens should stay informed and abreast of local media reports for land border and airport updates.

U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

U.S. citizens residing in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices.  Avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; be alert and remain aware of your surroundings; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets.

Read in full here.

Meanwhile —

 

 

 

Yesterday, the State Department expressed concern over the transfer of power in Burkina Faso:

The United States is concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso.  We regret the violence and the loss of life in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence.  We reiterate our call for all parties to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power and holding of democratic elections following the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore.  We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people’s support for the democratic process.

According to Vice News, Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, who assumed power has been a member of the military for more than 20 years, and served as the second in command of the ex-president’s security regiment. This is apparently, the seventh time a military officer has seized power since Burkina Faso won its independence from France more than 50 years ago. If history is any indication, he may still be around in 2022 in the “land of upright people.”

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Burkina Faso Says Bye Bye Blaise: Martial Law Lifted, Nationwide Curfew, Shelter in Place Still On

— Domani Spero
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The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued the following emergency message to U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso. The messages are dated but typically do not carry a timestamp:

On Thursday, October 30, President Compaore announced in a televised address that he will continue dialogue to form a transitional government after which he will transfer power to a democratically elected president.  He reiterated the message that the government is dissolved and announced that the state of martial law is lifted in all of Burkina Faso.

However, there is currently a 7:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew nationwide.

The city of Ouagadougou currently appears to be calm, however protesters continue to gather at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, and at the Place Tiefo Amoro (Station Square) in Bobo-Dioulasso. Crowds and spontaneous protests may also form elsewhere.

Embassy staff continues to shelter in place until further notice.  We urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to do the same and to make movements for essential purposes only.

At this time we do not know if civilians have access to the Ouagadougou International Airport. We are monitoring the situation but it is unclear whether flights continue to operate.

 

Meanwhile, today, Burkina Faso said bye-bye Blaise:

 

Enter armed forces chief General Honore Traore:

 

The people celebrates:

 

Former-Prez to Ghana?

 

Meet the new boss:

 

Consequences?

 

Except for the Emergency Message from Embassy Ouagadougou, there is no Travel Warning or Alert issued on Burkina Faso as of this writing. The latest State Department statement is dated October 30, and obviously had been overtaken by events.

The United States welcomes President Compaore’s decision to withdraw a National Assembly bill which would have amended the constitution and allowed him to run for an additional term of office. We also welcome his decision to form a government of national unity to prepare for national elections and to transfer power to a democratically elected successor. We look forward to that transition taking place in 2015. We regret the violence and the loss of life today in Burkina Faso, and call on all parties to avoid further violence. We underscore our commitment to peaceful transitions of power through democratic elections and emphasize neither side should attempt to change the situation through extra-constitutional means.

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US Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place

— Domani Spero
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The US Embassy in Burkina Faso has made several security messages this past week, warning U.S. citizens of a planned day of protest that started out as a “civil disobedience campaign” on Tuesday, October 28 and followed by a demonstration and an  expected sit-down strike the last two days:

On Wednesday, October 29 it is expected that a demonstration (which was originally planned before the referendum announcement) organized by the Coalition Contre la Vie Chère(Coalition Against a High Cost of Living) will be used by the political opposition as an opportunity to hold a march and gathering in downtown Ouagadougou.

On Thursday, October 30 the National Assembly will reportedly vote on the proposed constitutional change.  The opposition has called for a sit-down strike surrounding the National Assembly building to block voting members from casting their vote.

Earlier today, Embassy Ouagadougou sent out an emergency message that at 9:30 am the U.S. Embassy received reports of demonstrators breaking through police barricades at the National Assembly and that warning shots and teargas have been fired.  Embassy staff was instructed to shelter in place until further notice.

via Google

via Google

Later on October 30, the embassy released the following statement on the enactment of martial law in Burkina Faso:

On Thursday, October 30, President Compaore declared that he is dissolving the government, declaring a state of emergency and enacting martial law.  Embassy staff has been instructed to continue to shelter in place until further notice.  We urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to do the same.

There have been widespread reports of looting throughout Ouagadougou and other parts of the country.

The Ouagadougou International Airport is closed and all flights in and out have been canceled until further notice.

U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment.  Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings.  Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in 1960, following its independence from France.  Blaise Compaoré has been President of Burkina Faso since 1987. CBS describes President Compaoré as a graduate of Muammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center (a.k.a. Harvard for tyrants).  His country has an unemployment rate of 77 percent (ranked 197th in the world.) See Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

According to the State Department’s Fact Sheet, U.S. interests in the country are as follows:

U.S. interests in Burkina Faso are to promote continued democratization and greater respect for human rights and to encourage sustainable economic development. Countering terrorism and strengthening border security are of growing importance in Burkina Faso. The United States and Burkina Faso engage in a number of military training and exchange programs, including in counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance. The country is contributing to the support of U.S. efforts in the Sahel. Burkina Faso is a partner in the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program for peacekeeping and is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

This is a fast moving event that the Consular Bureau’s Travel Alert or Travel Warning is possibly running wildly down the corridors to get cleared so it can get posted online.  We’ll try to keep tabs on that.  The airport is also closed so any evacuation will have that to tackle.   The U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso is Tulinabo Mushingi, a career diplomat with extensive Africa experience.

Some clips via Twitter:

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Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos)

— Domani Spero
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Today is the last day of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.. According to the White House, this is the first such event of its kind: “the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government.”  The August 4-6 Summit is intended to advance “the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlights America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

While Africa’s worst human rights abusers did not get their invitations, repressive leaders who have been in power for some twenty-years or more did, and are also in town to network with CEOs and talk about peace, regional stability, investing in Africa’s future and  enhancing governance. Jeffrey Smith, a senior advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Todd Moss, a former senior U.S. State Department official argues that “A robust U.S.-Africa policy for the 21st century cannot be built with these remnants of an old guard who play the terrorism or oil card to deflect legitimate criticism and stifle democracy.” Read more of that here. WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog has an interesting table of African leaders invited to attend the summit, sorted by their country’s most recent Polity IV scores, which characterize how democratic or autocratic a state is.

These remnants of the old guard, of course, brought their first ladies with them.How can we ignore them? Here are the six members of that thankfully, shrinking club:

Mrs. Chantal Biya
President Paul Biya has been President of the Republic of Cameroon since 1982

32 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

The second wife of President Paul Biya of Cameroon has a fashion style that refused to be ignored. Her pink gown and headdress are enchanting, we dare you to look away. She has a community fan page on Facebook that has more colors than an HTML color chart. Check her out here in 1994 when she married President Paul Biya.  How things have changed.  Her hair now makes news when she comes to town and it even has its very own Tumblr page at http://chantalbiyahair.tumblr.com.  In 2011, PEN USA ran a campaign to protest the imprisonment of author, Bertrand Teyou who wrote the book, La belle de la république bananière: Chantal Biya, de la rue au palais (The belle of the banana republic: Chantal Biya, from the streets to the palace). He was sentenced to a two-year imprisonment for ‘insulting’ the president’s wife.

This couple has been married for 20 years but her husband has been president of Cameroon for much longer; since 1982, so 32 years to be exact. Gosh, remember 1982?  The Falklands War, Menachem Begin & Anwar Sadat in Washington DC.; also ABBA’s final public performance? In any case, she’s here in awesome pinkness. The world has not seen such flamboyance since Imelda Marcos made a splash.

 Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno

Idriss Deby Itno has been the President of the Republic of Chad since  1990

24 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad, and Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

 WaPo called the current Mrs. Deby, “the “fourth lady” of Chad or the 13th, depending on whom you ask.” She married President Deby in mid-2000s and “captivated the capital in a way unseen before in this male-dominated society.”Educated in Morocco, France and a college in Montreal, she was reportedly friendly with Brahim, Deby’s son, who “dabbled in college courses.” That’s the presidential son who was killed in Paris in 2007. If this president remains in power until 2019, he’d be in office for 29 years, her age when they got married. Under Deby’s leadership, Chad has been persistently ranked as one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries, despite abundant natural reserves of oil, uranium and gold according to CBS News.  Mrs. Deby is reportedly known for being well-spoken and for her flowing designer gowns and matching head scarves. Meet the First Lady of Chad in her gorgeous gold and electric blue gown.

 

 Mrs. Constancia Mangue de Obiang

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been in office since 1979

35 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and First Lady Constancia Mangue de Obiang, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

Who’s Africa’s worst dictator? Probably not Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe but Equatorial Guinea’s very own “whose life seems a parody of the dictator genre,” according to Peter Maass. He is as much as a “nightmare” as Robert Mugabe, except that his country has oil, lots of oil, and ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Chevron, and other firms have apparently invested more than $10 billion to extract the black gold. Read his page on CBS’ The World’s Enduring Dictators, he’s a real cupcake. Mrs. Obiang was born in 1952 in the town of Angong, near Mongomo, and according to this, she studied in the school run by nuns in Bata. She was reportedly a graduate of the Martin Luther King University School of Teacher Training. Last year, she was proclaimed “the epitome of perfection”, and “Mother Africa” by a New York-based group. She attended the WH dinner in an embroidered blue caftan.

Chantal Compaoré

Blaise Compaoré has been President of Burkina Faso since 1987

27 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and Mrs. Chantal Compaoré, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

CBS describes President Compaoré as a graduate of Muammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center (a.k.a. Harvard for tyrants).  His country has an unemployment rate of 77 percent (ranked 197th in the world.) Wow! Who’s been editing Mrs.Compaoré’s Wikipedia page? The couple has been married since 1985, so way before that October 1987 coup d’état that killed his predecessor.  Mrs Compaoré attended the WH dinner in her lemon and gold caftan.

Queen Inkhosikati La Mbikiza

King Mswati III has been the leader of Swaziland since 1986

28 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Majesty King Mswati III, Kingdom of Swaziland, and Her Royal Highness Queen Inkhosikati La Mbikiza, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

In 2011, The Times of India reported: “King Mswati III has a Rolls Royce, 13 palaces and 14 wives, and just received a pay increase, even as a cash crisis forced Swaziland to slash spending, feeding anger against his regime.”The World’s Enduring Dictators notes that “His most heinous act appears to be living an opulent lifestyle “fit for a king” while his country languishes in extreme poverty.”According to BBC News, Queen Inkhosikati La-Mbikiza, is the king’s third wife and was chosen at a reed dance where apparently, no one can object to the king’s choice.That BBC News story and this apple green-black ensemble made us weep.

Mrs. Zineb Jammeh

Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh has been the President of the Republic of The Gambia since 1994

20 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, President of the Republic of The Gambia, and Mrs. Zineb Jammeh, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

President Yahya Jammeh took control of the country in a military coup in 1994 and has won four re-elections since then. According to her official profile, Mrs. Jammeh was born in Rabat, Morocco in 1977 to Ambassador Soumah, “a well respected career diplomat from the distinguished Guinean Soumah family and Mrs. Soumah who hails from Morocco.” Next year, President Jammeh will be in power for 21 years, Mrs. Jammeh’s  age when they got married.  Her profile says: “Madam Jammeh who holds a Diploma in International Systems and Management is currently involved in an extremely busy career as the Gambia’s beloved First Lady.” Mrs. Jammeh attended the WH dinner in her very understated long, blue dress, overshadowed by her husband’s sparkling white kaftan. We understand that those kaftans had to be “waxed and beaten with wooden mallets to create a stiff shiny cloth” before such clothing can be born.

See the rest of the photos from the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit White House dinner here.

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