Burkina Faso thanks Russia for ‘priceless gift’ of wheat

Burkina Faso thanks Russia for 'priceless gift' of wheat
This pool image distributed by Sputnik agency shows Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting Burkina Faso's junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore during a welcoming ceremony at the second Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg on 27 July 2023AFP

Burkina Faso says it has received 25,000 tonnes of free wheat from Russia.

Confirming the news on Friday, one minister called the delivery a “priceless gift”.

Ties between Moscow and Ouagadougou have been strengthening since the military took power in two successive coups in 2022.

Last month Russia re-opened its embassy in Burkina Faso, which been closed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Burkina Faso has at the same time been distancing itself from former colonial power France, and last year it ordered its troops to leave.

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s most-neglected crises, humanitarians say.

About a quarter of all children under five have stunted growth, according to UN data, and more than three million people face acute food shortages.

The West African nation is battling a years-long Islamist insurgency that has forced more than two million people from their homes. One in four schools are closed because it is too dangerous for children to risk going.

So severe is Burkina Faso’s security crisis that some citizens welcomed the military coups two years ago, and hoped for an end to the violence and upheaval.

Yet the military junta has failed to deliver on its early promises to tackle Islamist militants, and the latter still control large swathes of the country.

It was during a summit in St Petersburg last year that President Vladimir Putin promised to send Burkina Faso a gift of thousands of tonnes of wheat.

Russia is one of the world’s biggest grain producers, and is projected to export about 45 millions tonnes of wheat this financial year, according to US estimates.

The isolated European power, condemned by much of the international community for waging war in Ukraine, is seeking to deepen alliances in Africa and elsewhere.

Speaking at a ceremony on Friday, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Karamoko Jean Marie Traor√© said the wheat consignment from Russia would help to push his nation towards “developing our own production capacity in order to halt once and for all dependence on food from abroad”.

Nandy Some Diallo, Burkina Faso’s minister for solidarity and humanitarian action, said the government was “delighted” and called the grain delivery a “priceless gift” that would benefit people who were internally displaced and vulnerable.

Earlier this week, there were reports that a contingent of Russian troops had arrived in Burkina Faso.

Last summer, Burkina Faso signed a deal with Russia in July for the construction of a nuclear power plant to increase its energy supply. Less than a quarter of the country’s population has access to electricity.

In addition to Russian influence in matters of economics, diplomacy and defence – there has also been a rise in recent months of Russian-sponsored disinformation.

Russia has consistently denied such allegations in the past.

Burkina Faso, which is rich in gold and other minerals, has denied reports it paid Russian mercenary fighters by giving them rights to mines in the country.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman