Q&A | Does the AU have the political will to bring sanity to Burkina Faso, a country dogged by coups

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  • The fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya fuelled Jihadist operations.
  • The AU should uphold the Lomé Declaration in dealing with Burkina Faso.
  • The military unseated Christian Kabore because they felt he was not supporting them.

South Africa on Tuesday joined the rest of the continent in calling for the military in Burkina Faso to return to their barracks and restore civilian democratic rule.

By Wednesday, there was no change in Burkina Faso's recurring history of army mutinies and coup d'etats. 

News24 spoke to Emmanuel Matambo, a senior researcher in North African politics for the Centre for Africa-China Studies.

He spoke about factors around Burkina Faso's coup history.

Since 1966, Burkina Faso has been dogged by coups. What's the major problem for the country to transition into a democracy?

The country itself was conceived by the major influence France still holds on Francophone Africa. So, the French will always support those they think will keep these countries in France's orbit.

Another reason, is that the recent history of Burkina Faso has to do with how Thomas Sankara became president. Sankara was murdered in 1987 by Blaise Compaoré, who later went on to rule for about 27 years. These confluent factors contribute to making an unstable country.

Burkina Faso is faced with serious Jihadists attacks. Won't the coup compromise the state's security and lead to many other overthrows in future?

Burkina Faso, just like Nigeria, Mali and Chad, have been dogged by insurgents. This was made worse in 2011 after the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya.

Demonstrators gathering in Ouagadougou to show sup
Demonstrators gathering in Ouagadougou to show support for the military. They are holding a picture of Colonel Aissimi Goita (left) and of Liutenent Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

The fall of Gaddafi made it easy for the transfer of small arms to be smuggled across the border into Mali, Burkina Faso and the rest of West Africa.

We should brace for more woes in West Africa because countries are failing to provide jobs for the youths that will discourage them from being recruited by insurgents.

Should the Economic Community of West African States be blamed for the turmoil in Burkina Faso?

The bloc shouldn't be blamed. Burkina Faso finds itself in this situation because they have been prostrate in dealing with Jihadists.

Last year in November, 49 military police officers and four civilians were massacred near a gold mine in Inata - and there were deep concerns in the army that they didn't have President Christian Kaboré's support. That's why the government was overthrown.

How different is the Burkina Faso coup from the classic African coup?

This government was overthrown not because it wasn't democratic. Kabore was voted in in 2015 and re-elected in 2020. The soldiers felt let down, that's why they took power.

A man buys a newspaper with theh the picture of Pa
A man buys a newspaper with the picture of Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the leader of the mutiny and of the Patriotic Movement for the Protection and the Restauration.

Does the African Union (AU) have the capacity to bring sanity to Burkina Faso?

The AU has the capacity, but whether or not there's a political will - that is where things become problematic. There's the Lomé Declaration for the AU, which says anyone who got power through a coup shouldn't win the organisation's confidence.

The AU should also move beyond that and say those that have been democratically elected should lead within democratic principles and be effective leaders.

Is the military united in Burkina Faso to at least run the country?

We can't trust the military to run a government because a military's role in a country is to ensure security; not to be political leaders.

We saw it in Mali, that once they taste power they will be reluctant to hand over the reins of power. All those factors combined show that the military should not be trusted. The Burkinabe people should make sure they go back to the platform they had after the ousting of Blaise Compaoré in 2014.

They should put a credible transitional government and return to civilian rule. The AU should do more there because they have been reluctant in disciplining countries, such as Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan. They should not make the same mistake in Burkina Faso.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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