Written by Domenico Farinelli
In the early morning of 30th September 2022, heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in several parts of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital. Masked men blocked the main streets of the city and soon the fighting reached the “Ouaga 2000” upscale neighbourhood housing the presidential palace and all other major institutional headquarters. In the evening of that same day, Captain Ibrahim Traore announced he had decided to remove the country’s President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba from power, acting in response to his inability to effectively counter the Islamist insurgency that affects the entire territory of this heavily impoverished African country. The newly installed military junta then proceeded to impose a nationwide curfew from 9:00pm to 5:00am, prohibited all political and civil activities, closed all air and land borders, and suspended the constitution of Burkina Faso.
In an interview released to Radio France International on 3rd October, Traore insisted that he would not be in charge for long, assuring listeners that a national conference would appoint a new interim ruler by the end of the year. According to Captain Traore, the new leader, whether civilian or military, would be required to honour an agreement that the previous government had signed with West Africa’s regional bloc and oversee a return to civilian rule by 2024.
In fact, the recently ousted President Damiba had also risen to power through a military coup d’état which he staged in January 2022 against Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, a former banker who had been regularly elected in 2015. The motivation cited by the rebels for the subversion of the country’s constitutional order was almost the same as that used on the occasion of the recent coup: increasing efficiency to the State’s fight against Islamist insurgents and helping restore public order. Therefore, whereas Damiba seemed resolute in maintaining security cooperation with both France and the EU to counter the insurgency, Traore has instead publicly stated that he will seek help from other partners, most notably Moscow. Unsurprisingly, the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin expressed support for Traore’s coup, publicly stating that he “salutes and support[s] Captain Ibrahim Traore”. Prigozhin is the founder of the Wagner Group, a private military company which runs many operations across Africa including in Burkina Faso’s biggest neighbour Mali. He is also considered to be one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies. Numerous videos published on the internet show supporters of the coup waving Russian flags while marching on the streets chanting “Russia! Russia!”.
It seems that Burkina Faso is following the same fate as Mali in refusing to coordinate with EU and NATO initiatives for the Sahel region, instead moving towards a closer cooperation with Russia and its mercenary forces operating in the region. It is of primary importance that the EU member States resolve to act as soon as possible, to stop and reverse this dangerous trend if they wish to avoid a far more hostile regional order in the future. Strong commitments to cooperation in security and development are therefore needed.
Edward Mcallister (4/10/2022), “Who is Ibrahim Traore, the soldier behind Burkina Faso’s latest coup?”, Reuters. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/who-is-ibrahim-traore-soldier-behind-burkina-fasos-latest-coup-2022-10-03/
Euractiv (3/10/2022), “Is Moscow involved? Supporters of Burkina Faso coup wave Russian flags”. Retrieved from: https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/is-moscow-involved-supporters-of-burkina-faso-coup-wave-russian-flags/
Jeune Afrique (30/09/2022), “Burkina : Ibrahim Traoré proclamé président, Damiba destitué”. Retrieved from: https://www.jeuneafrique.com/1381642/politique/burkina-ibrahim-traore-proclame-president-damiba-destitue/
Nosmot Gbadamosi (2022), “Burkina Faso’s Junta Looks to Russia for Support”, Foreign Policy. Retrieved from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/10/05/burkina-faso-coup-junta-russia-ecowas/
Radio France Internationale (03/10/2022), “Burkina Faso: rencontre entre Ibrahim Traoré et les secrétaires généraux des ministères”. Retrieved from: https://www.rfi.fr/fr/afrique/20221003-burkina-faso-rencontre-entre-ibrahim-traor%C3%A9-et-les-secr%C3%A9taires-g%C3%A9n%C3%A9raux-des-minist%C3%A8res