Another military coup in Burkina Faso

Another military coup in Burkina Faso

By Davide Fortin

Between September the 30th and October the 2nd 2022, some Armed Forces junior officers carried out a coup d’état, establishing a new military junta replacing the previous one, led by Colonel Paul Damiba who had assumed power about 8 months ago in a coup against President Roch Kaborè’s government. The new military insurrection is led by Captain Ibrahim Traorè, known for his long experience fighting jihadist terrorism in the north of the country. Damiba did not oppose the coup, reflecting the little support he had in domestic military circles, and stepped down after receiving guarantees for his immunity and the assurance that the Junior officers would fulfill the previously undertaken international commitments towards the country’s democratic transition.

The officers justified the action in the light of Damiba’s government’s poor record in countering terrorist organizations active in northern Burkina Faso, especially in the so-called triple border area with Mali and Niger, where groups such as Ansarul Islam, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS), al-Murabitun, and the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (SGIM) operate.

However, besides securitarian motivations, Traorè’s coup highlights the internal conflict within the Burkinabé military and the competition among different factions for control of national resources, starting with gold mines (Burkina is Africa’s second-largest producer and the 12th globally). Most of the extraction activities occur informally, in the so-called “artisanal mines”, and the control of the sites is contended by government forces, terrorist organizations, and criminal gangs. Eventually, the lack of transparency in the mining sector fuels the vicious cycle of corruption and improper takeovers by government officials. Hence, it cannot be ruled out that, in Traorè’s plans, there was a desire to make a breakthrough in the fight against terrorism by restoring the control over that contested territory, in order to directly run the mining sites and staking a serious claim on the management of the gold trade.

In addition, of particular concern was the presence of many Russian flags among the pro-coup demonstrating crowd. In fact, over the last few years, the Kremlin has been increasing its influence in the Sahel by exploiting the anti-Western sentiment of the population and ruling classes and offering very advantageous economic and military cooperation packages for the power elites. Russia’s goals include the need to increase its international support, strengthen the anti-Western front and expand its economic presence in areas that are rich in raw materials.

The one in Burkina Faso is only the latest of six coups that have taken place in the last two years in Western Sahelian area countries (two in Mali between 2020 and 2022, one in Chad and Niger in 2022, and the two in Burkina Faso), highlighting both the extreme institutional fragility and the dangerous democratic recession taking place in the region.

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