Burkina Faso coup adds to regional trend

This video grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV from Radio Télévision du Burkina (RTB) on January 24, 2022 shows Captain Sidsoré Kader Ouedraogo (C), spokesman for the junta, with uniformed soldiers announcing on television that they have taken power and 'put an end to the power' of Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, in Ouagadougou. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Army coup plotters have justified their actions by pointing to the deep dysfunction of the administrations they overthrow.

A military coup in Burkina Faso on Monday has become the latest in West Africa and the conflict-torn Sahel, where armies are increasingly ousting civilian administrations due to their perceived ineffectiveness.

The Sahel state's army announced a takeover, ousting President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who was first elected in 2015 but faced rising anger over his inability to stop a brutal jihadist conflict. 

Burkina Faso joins the ranks of several states in the region that are now ruled by military juntas. 

In neighbouring Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020. He then deposed a civilian administration in May last year in a second coup.

Guinea's army also deposed elected president Alpha Conde in September 2021. 

Chad is also governed by a junta led by Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, an army general who seized power in April last year after his father -- the Sahel state's former leader -- was killed on the battlefield.

Army coup plotters have justified their actions by pointing to the deep dysfunction of the administrations they overthrow. 

In Guinea, Conde was deposed after months of brewing discontent, including deadly protests, against his rule. 

Goita cited the "trampling" of civilian rights as well as endemic corruption as reasons for the army seizing power in Mali.

In the Sahel, putschists have often cited failures to contain the jihadist conflict. 

Islamist fighters plague much of the vast semi-arid region, waging an insurgency that first emerged in Mali in 2012 before spreading to Burkina Faso and Niger.

Despite international support, the impoverished Sahel countries are struggling to contain the violence. 

Burkina Faso's crisis began on Sunday, when mutineers demanded the sacking of the military top brass and more resources to fight the Islamist insurgency.

On Monday, the army announced on state television that it had seized power and closed the country's borders.

'Democratic disillusion' 

Niagale Bagayoko, the head of the African Security Sector Network expert group, said the trend towards coups is the result of "very strong democratic disillusion within public opinion".

She argued that in the Sahel few people are likely to think that voting will improve their security. 

Burkinabe President Kabore himself won re-election in 2020 on promises of curbing the jihadist insurgency. However, the violence has continued unabated.  

On November 14, an attack on a base in the Inata area of northern Burkina Faso killed 57 people, including 53 gendarmes.

Ornella Moderan, of the Institute for Security Studies think tank, said this attack fed a perception that the political class had abandoned the armed forces. 

Rising insecurity has "exasperated the civilian population as much as the defence and security forces," she said.

Tensions had been brewing in Burkina Faso for months before Sunday's mutiny, with protests rocking several cities and senior military staff reshuffled in a bid to appease rank-and-file troops. 

Then on January 11, military prosecutors said they had detained eight soldiers for allegedly planning to "destabilise" state institutions. 

Mamadou Konate, a former Malian justice minister, told AFP that "the failure of democracies cannot justify the resurgence of soldiers on the scene". 

But a trend appears to have set in. As well as the current military regimes in Guinea and Mali, former soldiers are also heading the governments of Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. 

A UN official working in the Sahel, who declined to be named, said a "page is being turned" for West African political veterans with a legacy of breaking promises.

"Can the military do better?" he asked.


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