What we know so far about the military coup in Burkina Faso

Fourth West African state in eighteen months

On Sunday, news reports from Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, confirmed a then-ongoing mutiny, after gunfire was heard around a military base and within the area of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s home. Residents and witnesses say the gunfire began as early as 5am local time, in a standoff between mutinous soldiers and forces loyal to the civilian government. By Tuesday, the mutiny had escalated into a full-blown coup, with the army making a statement on national television that it had deposed the President Kabore.

The coup is believed to be centred on the inadequate support the Kabore-led administration gave to the Burkina Faso military in its fight against insurgent groups. Shortly after the ousting of long-term president Blaise Compaore in 2014, Burkina Faso has been plagued by armed attacks from groups linked to al-Quaeda and ISIS. The northern and eastern parts of the country have been the most affected region, as well as the capital city, with the situation growing exponentially worse in the ensuing years, including constant attacks all through 2021.

In June last year, over 100 people were killed in a violent attack on the north-eastern village of Solhan, the worst of the attacks in terms of death toll. In November, an attack in the northern town of Inata resulted in the death of 49 military officers and four civilians, which sparked even more outrage after reports emerged that the troops had gone without food rations for two weeks. It immediately led to anti-government protests and calls for Kabore to step down, which resulted in confrontation between protesters and the police. In another such protest on Saturday, police opened teargas on protesters, despite genuine concerns on the Kabore-led government’s handling of the crisis.

Dissatisfied by the government’s response and support, the Burkina Faso army staged a mutiny, taking control of several barracks across the country, including Sangoule Lamizana camp, which houses the army’s generals and a prison whose inmates include soldiers from the failed coup attempt in 2015. The mutiny was meant to force negotiations with the government for stronger commitment to end the insurgency, however, with talks deadlocked, the mutineers detained Kabore, before announcing full military takeover and a dissolution of the constitution on Radiodiffusion Television Du Burkina (RTB) on Tuesday.

The group, referring to itself as Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR), is being led by Paul-Henri Dimba, a long-term soldier and lieutenant colonel appointed in December by Kabore to commander of Burkina Faso’s third military region. Alongside Chad, Guinea and Mali, Burkina Faso is the fourth West African state to come under military rule in the past eighteen months. The removal of Kabore has been a cause for celebration amongst many locals who have protested the former president’s incompetence, while external bodies and countries, such as United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and the U.S. government have strongly condemned the coup.

[Featured Image from AFP]