Burkina Faso: A Country that has witnessed 9 Successful Military Coups

Burkina Faso has experienced a total of nine successful military coups, two of them occurring in 2022. The most recent is September 30th, 2022. It is the country’s second takeover in the last eight months. Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba took control in a January coup that toppled democratically elected President Roch Marc Kaboré. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. President Thomas Sankara renamed Burkina Faso, Meaning “land of the honest (incorruptible) men”, from the Republic of Upper Volta (1958-1984).

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The country has a GDP of $16.226 billion and ranks as the least developed country. 63% of the population are Muslims and 22% are Christians. Because of French colonialism, French is the country’s official language of government and business. The country has 60 indigenous languages, Mooré being the most spoken language. The government is a semi-presidential republic with executive, legislative, and judicial powers. Burkina Faso is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations, and La Francophonie. Both ECOWAS and the African Union International Bodies have expelled Burkina Faso.

Lamizana’s rule and multiple military coups

The military coup of 1966 removed Yaméogo, suspended the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and installed Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana as leader of a government of senior army commanders. The army held power for four years. The Voltans passed a new constitution on June 14, 1976, establishing a four-year transition phase toward complete civilian administration. Lamizana remained in power as president of military or mixed civil-military governments throughout the 1970s.

Lamizana’s government ran into problems with the country’s traditionally powerful trade unions, and on November 25, 1980, Col. Saye Zerbo led a bloodless coup against President Lamizana. Colonel Zerbo formed the Military Committee for National Progress as the primary governmental authority, thereby repealing the 1977 constitution. Colonel Zerbo had faced opposition from trade unions. Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo and the Council of Popular Salvation (CSP) deposed him two years later in the Upper Voltan coup d’état of 1982. The CSP continued to outlaw political parties and organizations while promising a return to civilian governance and a new constitution.

1983 Upper Voltan military coup d’état

Also known as the August revolution or Burkinabé revolution and carried out by radical army elements commanded by Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré against Major Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo’s authority. Ouédraogo came to power in a coup in 1982 with the Conseil de Salut du Peuple (CSP), a body made up of military leaders from various ideological backgrounds.

In January 1983, the CSP appointed Sankara as Prime Minister of Upper Volta. As his presidency developed, Ouédraogo found himself unable to reconcile the CSP’s conservative and radical groups. The groups differences were causing a political deadlock. On May 16, he cleared his government of pro-Libyan and anti-French forces, abolished the CSP. He imprisoned Sankara and several other key officials. This decision infuriated Sankara’s supporters. One officer, Compaoré, organized military opposition to the government after Sankara got subsequently released.

Tension and Unrest

Tensions remained high until August 4, when Compaoré launched a coup. Compaoré organized a march on Ouagadougou with 250 paratroopers from Pô. They left in the afternoon, accompanied by a gang of armed citizens, and hijacked trucks from a Canadian construction company. This allowed them to move quickly.

Meanwhile, Ouédraogo conferred with his chief of staff, who recommended him to seek a political settlement with Sankara. Ouédraogo met Sankara at his home around 19:00. He offered to resign “to allow the installation of an unified transitional government.” Sankara agreed to the concept but requested a few hours to discuss it with Compaoré. He left at 20:30, but he couldn’t tell Compaoré or the other putschists about the truce. Around the same time, paratroopers infiltrated the capital and began seizing critical locations. This included the radio station, Camp Guillaume, and the gendarmerie headquarters. Civilians assisted the putschists by directing them and cutting power lines throughout the capital.

White Flag

Before surrendering, the Presidential Guard exchanged heavy fire with the putschists at Ouédraogo’s house. Compaoré arrived at 22:00, followed an hour later by Sankara. The latter notified Ouédraogo of the “revolution” and offered him and his family exile. In response, Ouédraogo responded that he preferred to stay in the nation under the new leadership. Soldier escorted him to the Presidential Palace for the night. According to reports, the putsch murdered 13 people and injured 15, including six French civilians. Upper Volta’s new President was Sankara.

He established the Conseil National de la Revolution (CNR). This was governing body made up of of populist subordinate officers. It also included members of the Ligue Patriotique pour le Développement and the Union des Luttes Communistes. Sankara declared the coup on national radio, claiming that the goal was to “transfer power into the hands of the alliance of popular classes that make up the people.” He further vowed that the CNR will “liquidate imperialist dominance”. The government invited the public to help by forming “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.”

1987 Burkina Faso Successful Military coup d’état

The 1987 Burkina Faso coup was a deadly military coup that took place in Burkina Faso on October 15, 1987. Captain Compaoré planned the coup against incumbent far-left President Captain Thomas Sankara who was a former friend. Compaoré has never acknowledged the coup and professes to be a Sankara supporter.

In a gun duel inside the presidential palace, an armed gang killed Sankara and twelve other officials. Compaoré took over the president immediately. He cited deterioration in relations with neighboring nations as one of the grounds for the coup. He also claimed that Sankara jeopardized foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighboring countries.

2015 Burkina Faso Military coup d’état

The September 16, 2015 Burkina Faso coup d’état failed. Members of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP), detained the country’s administration. Those detained were provisional President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida and other cabinet members. The aftermath of the 2014 Burkinabé rebellion saw to it the foundation of a transitional government. A popular movement deposed long-time President Compaoré. He had risen to power in a 1987 coup against left-wing leader Thomas Sankara. The government scheduled new general elections for October 11, 2015.

One senior military source indicated that the soldiers who seized the government officials made no demands. A civil society activist alleged that they sought transitional President Kafando’s resignation.  Chérif Sy, President of the National Transitional Council, issued a statement shortly. He indicated that talks were underway between the military leadership and the “elements of the RSP” responsible for the coup. Le Balai Citoyen, prominently involved in the 2014 revolt, called for residents of Ouagadougou to condemn the events. Soldiers fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the presidential residence. They withdrew but did not disperse. Security forces beat some protesters with batons and gunshots were heard in the Ouaga 2000 area.

Dissolving of the Government

The coup leaders announced on September 17, 2015, that they were dismissing Kafando and dissolving the government. The transitional legislature established a new transitional body. They named it the National Council for Democracy, to lead the country to “inclusive and peaceful elections.” They denounced the transitional authorities in their CND proclamation for their allegedly undemocratic electoral law. This barred anyone who supported a 2014 proposal to eliminate term limits from standing in the October 2015 election. The also ignored ECOWAS recommendations to repeal the exclusionary law. The council’s chairman was named General Gilbert Diendéré.

The CND never clearly established its control beyond Ouagadougou. Army authorities announced, that men from the regular army were heading towards the capital. There main agenda being to put an end to the coup. As a show of goodwill, Diendéré revealed plans to release Zida. Faced with the prospect of a clash with the regular army, as well as ongoing street protests by coup opponents. They felt that the proposed terms offered too many concessions to the coup leaders. Diendéré stated that the CND would adhere to the draft agreement’s. He warned that the problem might lead to “chaos, civil war, and major human rights violations.”

On September 23, ECOWAS leaders reinstalled Kafando as president in the presence of ECOWAS leaders. The President also reinstated Isaac Zida as Prime Minister. Zida predicted that the election would be postponed for “many weeks. Diendéré, for his part, stated that the coup was a mistake.

January and September 2022 Burkina Faso Military coup d’état

On January 23, 2022, a group of military officers launched another coup in Burkina Faso.Gunfire erupted in front of the presidential mansion and several military installations in the Burkinabé capital of Ouagadougou. Soldiers took control of the capital’s military installation. However, the authorities denied that a coup was taking place in the country.The military captured President Kaboré at the capital’s military camp a few hours later. On January 24, the military stated on television that Kaboré had been removed as president. Following the declaration, the military proclaimed the parliament, government, and constitution dissolved. Military officer Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba led the coup.

Shootout at the President’s mansion

Outside Kaboré’s mansion, bullet-riddled presidential convoy vehicles could be seen on Monday morning, local time. One of the discovered automobiles stained with blood. Defense Minister Bathelemy Simpore rejected reports of a coup in the country. He asked citizens to resume normal activities in the aftermath of the gunfire. However, other news outlets reported hours later that President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré had been detained in the capital’s military barracks, and his whereabouts and situation unknown.

The military had taken over the headquarters of the state-run Radio Télévision du Burkina Faso by the afternoon. Pro-military demonstrators allegedly set fire to and ransacked the headquarters of the government People’s Movement for Progress. Roch Marc’s Twitter account issued a statement. Christian Kaboré urged discussion and invited soldiers to lay down their rifle. He did not say whether he was detained. On the same day, the military declared on television that Kaboré had been removed as president. Following the statement, the military declared the parliament, government, and constitution to be null and void.

September 2022 Military coup

Eight months later, on September 30, 2022, yet again a coup deposed Interim President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba. Damiba had seized control in a coup just eight months earlier. Masked soldiers set up blockades in the capital’s core; the pro-coup troops appeared to be primarily from the “Cobra” squad.

Clashes erupted at Camp Baba Sy, a military outpost, Damiba primary station. Also, gunfire reports came from the Kosyam Palace and state television turned off. Hours later, the interim government acknowledged an “internal crisis” inside the army. They stated that discussions to resolve it were underway. Interim President Damiba confirmed on Facebook that there was a “shift in mood among certain members.” Negotiations between the rebel army and the government failed.

Captain Traore said in the evening that he and a group of officers had chosen to remove Interim President Damiba. He stated his reason being Damimba’s incapacity to deal with the country’s worsening Islamist insurgency. This saw to it the enforcement of a 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew. He also halted all political and civil society activitie and blocked All air and land borders. He also suspended the Burkina Faso Constitution. Traore also announced his appointment as the new leader of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration.

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