Burkina Faso Military Coup 2022: A Deja-Vu?


    Burkina Faso coup
    Burkina Faso Armed Forces Lt. Sunemane Zango. Photo via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.


    Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, bordering Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Togo. Once known as Upper Volta, it was a French colony between 1896 and 1960. In the years after the independence, Burkina Faso faced severe political instability marked by military coups, as the timeline below shows. 

    1966 – On January 3rd, the Chief of Staff Aboubakar Sangoulé Lamizana seized power replacing President Yaméogo. 

    1980 – On November 25th, President Lamizana was overthrown by the Military Committee for Recovery for National Progress (CMRPN). Previously, Lamizana has been accused of having a lavish lifestyle at the country’s expense.  

    1982 – On November 7th, the Council for the Salvation of the People (CSP) conducted a military coup, appointing Captain Thomas Sankara as Prime Minister. Consequently, Sankara later became President of Burkina Faso in 1983.

    1987 – On October 15th, President Sankara was assassinated in a military coup led by Blaise Compaoré. Sankara was accused of betraying the democratic and popular values of the revolution in a radio program. Afterwards, Compaoré became the new president. 

    2014 – After 27 years of presidency, Compaoré was removed in a popular uprising. Widespread protests sparked due to unsolved socioeconomic problems and fake promises of change. As a result, President Kaboré was elected in 2015. 

    2022 Military Coup

    2022 – On January 24th, President Kaboré was overthrown by lieutenant-colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba. For instance, the main driver of the military coup was President Kaboré’s inability to fight terrorist militias and provide security to Burkina Faso’s population. As a result, on January 25th, the coup leader, lieutenant-colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, announced that the state is under a military government, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR). 

    In Burkina Faso, popular discontent and pressures for change are the drivers of military coups. Therefore, Burkinabé disaffection is related to the undemocratic rule of law, economic instability and the failure to assess the jihadist insurgency in the nation. 

    Key Judgements

    KJ-1 It is unlikely that ECOWAS and the international community will change its mind on the political situation in Burkina Faso. 

    KJ- 2 It is unlikely that the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) will solve the nation’s instability in the next 12 months. 

    KJ-3 Jihadists will highly likely continue to carry out attacks in Burkina Faso. 

    International Community Reactions 

    The international community rejects the concept of coup d’état as a general norm. Indeed, public rejection is linked to achieving power through undemocratic and violent means. For instance, two weeks after the coup, the UN defined the act as an “unconstitutional change of government”. Therefore, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration does not meet the criteria as a legitimate government by the international community. 

    Nonetheless, the unacceptance of the new government in Burkina Faso does not imply practical intervention in the nation. Like the reactions to the military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso’s received soft acceptance. 

    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is an agglomerate of 15 African countries, including Burkina Faso. The main aim of the Economic Community is to promote economic development across West Africa. 

    After the military coup on January 24th, 2022, ECOWAS has condemned Damiba’s actions, accusing the MPSR of forcing President Kaboré to resign. As a result, on January 28th, the ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso for the unconstitutional military actions carried out four days before. In addition, the Economic Community called for the release of Kaboré from the army camp in Ouagadougou 

    Burkina faso coup
    The flags of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo by US Army via Flickr.

    The Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) 

    Alongside the army, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) is the party responsible for the removal of President Kaboré. In the aftermath of the coup, MPSR is the new ruling military junta of Burkina Faso, led by lieutenant-colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba. 

    Lieutenant-colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba is the new president of Burkina Faso. Mr Damiba studied at a military academy in Paris and gained extensive knowledge in counter-terrorism. Indeed, in 2015, he became the leader of the 30th RCAS, a military apparatus aimed at supporting counter-terrorism measures in Burkina Faso.

    While Burkinabé supported the new military junta, the forced deposition of Kaboré endangered operations of military support in Burkina Faso. France has always provided budget assistance, military aid, and training to Burkina Faso as an ex-French colony. However, Macron found himself in a soft spot in supporting a regime undemocratically established and under ECOWAS sanctions. 

    The Spread of Terrorism in Burkina Faso 

    Burkina Faso is a victim of violent extremism. Since 2015, terrorist attacks have risen and hence increasing instability and violence. For instance, between 2015 and 2019, Burkina Faso had witnessed the most significant annual increase (+590%) worldwide terrorism casualties. The latest attack on November 14th, 2021, in the military base of Inata, marked the rupture between President Kaboré and the public.

    Three terrorist groups are active in Burkina Faso. Ansarul Islam, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), an Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Indeed, these Insurgent groups are exploiting the political and security instability to increase their efficacy and presence in the nation. Indeed, the recent coup d’état represents a chance for further terrorism increase. In addition, Burkina Faso’s destiny can exacerbate if France, the EU, and the US suspend their cooperation. As in August 2020, the US suspended its cooperation with Mali, Burkina Faso risks losing American military support in its counter-terrorism campaign. 

    Bianca Bonardi
    Bianca Bonardi
    Bianca is a graduate student in Criminology at Goldsmiths College of London. She recently finished her post-graduate studies in Terrorism and Security at King's College of London. Her research is mainly focused on Middle East issues and International Terrorist threats.

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