Military coup in Burkina Faso – Fear of instability

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Mutilating soldiers in front of the Guillaume Ouedraogo military camp. © Uncredited / AP / dpa

Mutinous soldiers have overthrown the government in Burkina Faso. It is the fourth coup in West Africa in about 18 months. Is the stability of the entire region faltering?

Ouagadougou – Mutinous soldiers overthrew Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Kaboré and took power in the West African crisis-ridden state. This was announced by a spokesman for the putschists on state television.

The government has been dissolved and the constitution has been suspended, said Sidsoré Kader Ouedraogo, speaking on behalf of the Patriotic Movement for Protection and Restoration (MPSR). They want to avoid violence and bloodshed – and will soon announce how and when Burkina Faso will return to democracy. The country’s borders remained closed for at least four days, and there was also a curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

A few hours earlier, Kaboré had been arrested and taken to a military camp in the capital, Ouagadougou. Local media circulated photos of the presidential car riddled with bullet holes. Kaboré later took the floor on Twitter and asked the soldiers to lay down their arms and allow dialogue.

The West African community of states Ecowas and the African Union said they support the government.

call for dialogue

The US State Department and the EU called for the immediate release of Kaboré and other government officials. A ministry spokesman in Washington said that all sides are also being called on to remain calm and seek dialogue. The military should respect the country’s constitution and civilian leadership. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made a similar appeal to the military.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was deeply concerned by the coup and condemned any attempt to take power by force of arms. He called on the coup leaders to “lay down their arms and ensure the physical integrity of the President and Burkina Faso’s institutions.”

As recently as mid-January, the army had accused and arrested several soldiers of a coup attempt. But even among the people, Kaboré was no longer undisputed at this point: on Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in the capital demanded his resignation.

Burkina Faso in deep crisis

Burkina Faso is in a serious crisis, mainly because of increasing Islamist terror in the Sahel. Many militias, some of whom have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) or the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, operate across the borders of Mali and Niger. More than a million of the country’s 21 million residents are considered internally displaced.

Resentment within the population, which accuses Kaboré and his government of being unable to act, has increased sharply in recent months. Protracted droughts and famines also plague the country, which is impoverished despite its wealth in gold.

The governments of Burkina Faso and its neighbors have little control in the desert-like expanses outside the cities. Burkina Faso has therefore joined forces with Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger to form the G5 Sahel Group to combat the terrorist groups. Germany and France also support the alliance. Many people travel via Burkina Faso to Niger, one of the most important transit countries for African migrants who want to reach the Mediterranean Sea and cross over to Europe.

Putsch fuels fears

The coup in Burkina Faso is the fourth in West Africa in a year and a half and has fueled fears that the entire region could be destabilized. The neighboring country of Mali, where the Bundeswehr is stationed with just over 1,350 soldiers, experienced military coups in August 2020 and May 2021 and is considered to be extremely unstable politically. In Guinea, further to the west, the military has also been in power since President Alpha Condé was ousted by force in September.

In the north of Burkina Faso, the country triangle bordering Mali and Niger has been a restricted area for months. It was here in particular that the army suffered great losses in the fight against terror. When extremists killed 49 military police officers and four civilians in November in the northern city of Inata, there was a storm of indignation.

Called for Kaboré’s resignation

Soldiers demanded more wages and better equipment in the fight against the Islamists. Allegations that the government was not paying enough attention to the families of wounded or killed armed forces mounted. Reports of missing food rations and shabby barracks fueled the protest. More and more soldiers and civilians demanded Kaboré’s resignation. In December, under pressure from the public, he deposed his prime minister and formed a new government – but no tangible reforms followed.

“Kaboré has attempted to appease the public by reshuffling his government, replacing various levels of military leadership and banning anti-government protests,” said analyst Alexandre Raymakers of security consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. But that didn’t stop people’s anger. dpa

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