Conflict Alerts # 475, 26 January 2022
Burkina Faso: Another coup in Africa
In the news
On 24 January, in a televised broadcast, a group of soldiers representing the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR) informed that they had detained the President, citing the worsening insecurities in the country. The government has been dissolved and the constitution suspended, but the group assured that a constitutional order would be retained in "reasonable time". The whereabouts of the President and other members of the government have not been disclosed yet. The coup unravelled a week after the arrest of 11 soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the government led by President Roch Marc Christian. The statement released by the coup leaders informs that the putsch had taken place "without any physical violence against those arrested, who are being held in a safe place, with respect for their dignity." The coup comes after days of tensions and public unrest in the capital - Ouagadougou. On 22 January, people gathered in large numbers to protest against the government and its failure to fight the growing threat of Islamist Insurgency in the country.
On 25 January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the military takeover and urged the coup leaders to "lay down arms". The African Union and ECOWAS have also released similar statements holding the armed forces responsible for the current instability. Ned Price, the state department Spokesperson of the United States, condemned the coup and called for "Restraint by all actors". EU representative Joseph Borell urged for the adherence to "constitutional order" and expressed concern over the deposed President's whereabouts.
Issues at large
First, weak democratic institutions. The country has witnessed a maximum number of coups and attempted takeovers in Africa, indicating an unstable political context in Burkina Faso. The recent events can be attributed to the 2015 elections that brought Kabore to power. Misgovernance, corruption, and the economy undermined the country's political institutions. The elected leadership failed to recognize public demands and insecurities (Insurgency) and fell short in the deliverance of governance.
Second, increasing Islamist insurgency. Burkina Faso has been a haven for Islamist insurgency since 2016. Various regions in the north of the country around the tri-border region with Mali and Niger are primarily under militant groups with affiliations to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. According to observers, Kabore's government has failed to curb the threat. With an under-funded, poorly equipped and inadequately trained armed forces, the situation was exacerbated in 2021 with some of the worst attacks in recent times. This has driven millions into forced displacement and caused hundreds of deaths, making the Burkinabe conflict one of the worst of its kind.
Third, the mutiny by the soldiers leading to the coup. The soldiers mutinying earlier were demanding the reversal of the recent reforms in military leadership, which was brought last year due to public unrest and improved training and allocation of military resources to fight the ongoing threat of insurgency. The arrest of the mutinying soldiers, coupled with growing public sympathy and support for the military, was incentivized by MPSR to carry out the coup.
The situation in Burkina Faso is inching towards a catastrophic outcome. With the military in power, Burkina Faso becomes the third country in the last 18 months to witness a military takeover in the region. The coup also marks the end of the short-lived Burkinabe democracy; the country now looks at a bleak economic future with possible sanctions and a tumultuous political atmosphere.