[UPDATE] Coup d’Etat in Burkina Faso: A Situational Assessment



    Soldiers in Burkina Faso carried out a coup against the military government of Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba on 30 September, 2022. Troops were observed along the main thoroughfares of Ouagadougou and inside key infrastructure points across the city. Army Captain Ibrahim Traore seized control of the capital and subsequently, armed men took to the country’s airwaves to read a statement declaring a suspension of the constitution and the overthrow of Damiba’s regime. The government is in the process of combating a brutal insurgency which presently controls large swathes of the country.

    KJ-1: It is likely that the new Traore regime will successfully consolidate power within the military junta in the next 3 months.

    • Traore appears to have been involved in the January coup and integrated into the junta’s inner circle. Traore was reportedly among the elements of the armed forces which attempted to steer Damiba into a more aggressive counterinsurgency approach [source]. 
    • The military controls the main roads in the capital which lead to several key administrative buildings. Damiba’s location is not currently known. However, a Facebook account associated with his government claims to be in the process of negotiations [source].
    • Departing flights from Ouagadougou are canceled and the land borders are closed. A curfew is in place between 9 PM and 5 AM [source], [source].
    • Demiba had only just returned from the UN General Assembly in New York. He was last seen publicly in Djibo [source].
    • Burkina Faso’s airspace is reportedly closed. However, ADS-B data shows a number of international flights traversing Burkinabe airspace [source]. 
    • This is due in part to the fact that Burkina Faso does not control overflights into its airspace. Moreover, the country’s Air Force does not have the means to impose a no fly zone [source], [source].
    • The coup indicates a successful power struggle within the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) [source].
    • Traore invited community stakeholders to form a new transitional charter and to declare a new President [source].
    • Demiba offered his resignation on 2 October. A junta spokesman announced that Capt. Traore has accepted the offer [source].
    • Demiba’s resignation follows a mob attack on the French embassy where protesters set fire to the outer perimeter of the compound [source].
    • The junta claimed that Demiba was sheltering in the French mission. French institutes and assets across the capital were targeted and a French institute in Bobo-Dioulasso was attacked [source].
    • Capt. Traore himself accused the French military base in Kamboinsin of harboring Demiba [source].
    • Security forces dispersed the mob outside the French embassy with tear gas after Traore withdrew his allegations [source].

    KJ-2: It is likely that the security situation in Burkina Faso will further deteriorate in the next 3 months. 

    • According to ECOWAS, the state controls about 60% of Burkina Faso’s total territory [source]. 
    • Unknown insurgents killed 89 people in an attack in Seytenga last week. Burkina Faso was suspended from ECOWAS following the coup in January [source]. 
    • President Kabore ouster in January was due to his inability to mitigate the insurgent threat in the north [source]. 
    • An attack in June resulted in 50 people dead as well. The military carried out an operation in response to the attack which it claims left over 40 insurgents dead [source]. 
    • Attacks in Kossi province left several dozen dead in May. An ambush on a 150 vehicle convoy left 11 soldiers dead. Over 50 civilians are missing since the attack [source], [source]. 
    • The January coup in Burkina Faso did nothing to help the security situation. Civilian deaths skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath of the coup and insurgent attacks on civilian targets did not abate [source].
    • Demiba attempted to inject momentum into his government by ousting the Defense Minister General Barthelemy Simpore and assuming his office. He also appointed Colonel-Major Silas Keita as the minister delegate of national defense [source].

    KJ-3: It is likely that Traore will seek out security assistance from Wagner PMC mercenaries in the next 3 months.

    • Wagner prefers mining concessions as a means of payment from states seeking its security services [source]. 
    • At least 2 senior US intelligence officials allege that Wagner will expand its operations into Burkina Faso [source].
    • Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner’s patron, can offer Burkina Faso social engineering services that could prove useful to the military junta [source].
    • Entities linked to Prigozhin are reportedly engaged in misinformation campaigns targeting ordinary Burkinabe citizens [source].
    • There is a growing pro-Russian sect in civil society in Burkina Faso. Protesters commonly display Russian flags [source]. 
    • Demiba allegedly lobbied the former president to hire Wagner mercenaries before he was deposed in January. It is unclear if Traore shares his line of thinking [source]. 
    • Burkina Faso has extensive deposits of Manganese, a mineral which Russia critically lacks [source].
    • Burkina Faso has extensive gold mining operations in areas under insurgent control. This could potentially provide an incentive to Wagner PMC [source].
    • Russian mining companies owned by Alexei Mordashov are able to avoid western sanctions and refine the extracted gold in the UAE [source].
    • Mordashov’s company Nordgold shut down operations at the Taparko mine in April due to the worsening security situation. MKS PAMP, a Swiss gold refiner, shut down commercial operations with Nordgold following sanctions, forcing Mordashov to turn to the UAE [source].
    • Demiba met with Sergei Lavarov at the UN General Assembly in order to discuss closer bilateral cooperation [source].
    • Russia may have been involved in assisting Demiba seize power in January [source].
    • Yevgeny Prigozhin congratulated Capt. Traore on his successful coup. Sergei Markov, a frequent pro-Kremlin voice on state TV, reportedly said that “our people helped the new leader” [source].
    • Supporters of Capt. Traore’s regime demanded closer cooperation with Russia [source].
    • However, Wagner could encounter obstacles to operating in Burkina Faso. The war in Ukraine creates a pressing need for fighters elsewhere. Wagner operators pulled out of the CAR for redeployment prior to the invasion of Ukraine [source].
    • Moreover, France is providing close to €15 million in financial aid. Paris is also considering extending a military assistance program to Burkina Faso. Any move towards Wagner would jeopardize Burkina Faso’s relationship with its traditional, more reliable security partners [source].

    Near and Long Term Consequences:

    As of September, Burkina Faso has undergone two violent coups with a military junta seemingly incapable of handling the insurgent threat. Civilian death and attacks on military targets have increased since January and show no sign of decreasing. The coup and ensuing political turmoil within the military junta will only further the insurgent cause. AQIM and ISIS linked insurgents will likely capitalize on the state’s paralysis and increase the rate of attacks on military targets in the near term.

    In the long run, Burkina Faso appears to be drawing closer to Russia and away from the western comity of states. It was suspended from ECOWAS. At least one key leader of the military junta reportedly sought to hire Wagner mercenaries. Moreover, in combination with historical grievances about French colonialism and Russian information campaigns targeting the population, Burkinabe citizens express a growing interest in closer cooperation with the Kremlin. Although there are obstacles to a full scale Wagner deployment to Burkina Faso, the potentially lucrative mining concessions and dire security situation could provide sufficient impetus for Traore to seek the help of Wagner.

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: October 2, 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University. He works in the private sector in field investigations and security.

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