By Joel Crane , CNN Written by
Burkina Faso is facing a security crisis, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Friday.
In a statement from her office, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights — who used the press conference call to urge the president and the country’s army to initiate a full investigation into the missing students — also described the situation as “severe.”
In late June, 21 of Burkina Faso’s elite presidential guard, The Rapid Intervention Battalion, soldiers — members of which are believed to have killed the students — claimed that they had kidnapped “around 150 insurgents” from nearby militants groups Ansar Dine and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
A female hostage photo showing hostage Madeleine Puliti (middle) with “Jihadist” Mohamed Ishaq.
However, a spokesperson for the University of Ouagadougou later admitted that the two UFN soldiers had not kidnapped the students. There was a disagreement between the army, Army of Burkina Faso, that claimed responsibility, and the university, where the missing students were.
“We have confirmed that no such kidnapping had occurred in any place in the country,” explained the spokesperson.
However, Bachelet expressed concerns about the narrative, especially following a long history of ongoing speculation that the militants have links to the security forces and that there may be a political motive behind their abduction.
“The media has been speculating whether this abduction is in any way related to the political power transition that is under way in Burkina Faso or is perhaps an opportunistic attempt to throw a spanner in the works of the fragile regional dialogue on terrorism and violence that has been taking place within the region,” she said.
Former soldiers of Burkina Faso’s presidential guard are accused of killing 21 students.
These concerns led to an event last Friday in which the victims’ families met with the Defense and Security Minister for Burkina Faso, Djibril Bassole, to demand an investigation, according to a statement from the presidency.
However, the minister reportedly refused to provide any information. Bachelet, on the other hand, expressed “serious doubts” as to whether the military released the truth in order to put pressure on the families to back off of their demands.
“No investigation should be allowed to go unpunished. The families should know why those (soldiers) who killed their children were not dismissed,” she said.
Late Friday, Burkina Faso’s army commander issued a statement urging the victims’ families to reject calls for a regional investigation.
“I would like to tell the families: We have launched an investigation ourselves. We are on the ground and we are analyzing the facts,” Lieutenant General Gilbert Diendere stated in a statement posted on the army’s Facebook page.
The clashes in September are the latest in a series of events involving security forces in the sub-Saharan country.
In April, an army mutiny forced the departure of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore following weeks of protests against his government. Protests began in January, when police shot into the air and killed several people.
The first group of students in Burkina Faso left the university on Thursday evening. A party of 250 university students led by the party’s president, Malick Touré, arrived in the streets of Ouagadougou early Friday morning to call for a new university president.