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A Coup in Burkina Faso

The situation in Burkina Faso has turned into a coup d’état, as we thought was likely. On the morning of Thursday, September 17, a military official announced on television that the army, acting as the ‘National Democracy Council’, had deposed the interim government of President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida, whose transition government “deviated from the objectives of a refounding of consensus democracy.” The Council is taking power until such time as “democratic and inclusive elections” can be held. That is all that is known so far, but some other deductions can be made based on the fact that the coup put an end to a certain direction of political travel on the interim government’s part. We are almost certain Gilbert Diendere, former president Blaise Compaoré’s chief of staff, was behind the coup, although he may be cautious enough not to present himself as the leader of the ‘National Democracy Council’. We think General Diendere’s objective is to force a new national dialogue in which Mr Compaoré’s ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), will be allowed to take part. Mr Compaoré himself might return at some point. We think Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara approved the coup – he is currently hosting Mr Compaoré, whose wife Chantal is a niece of the late Ivoirian president Felix Houphoet-Boigny. Houphoet and Mr Compaoré conspired to assassinate Thomas Sankara, Mr Compaoré’s predecessor. The interim government had, in its short year in office, launched a new inquest into Sankara’s murder. That inquest will now surely be shelved, to the intense frustration not only of Burkinabe but of left-leaning Africans across the continent.

The radical opposition that led the marches that cause Mr Compaoré’s ouster are busy mobilising, and there might be some deadly violence in the course of the rest of the week. International mediators will, we think, make some noises about restoring the transition government, but will ultimately be satisfied if Mr Kafando and Mr Zida are freed. The elections scheduled for October 11 will not take place. We think the junta will end up obtaining a dialogue process that includes the CDP, but that will take time, and there will be some instability in the meantime, especially in the next weeks. As was the case last year, the main regional effect will be a flow of displaced persons into the Ivory Coast, which may destabilise the environment there as Ivoirians get ready for their own presidential election on October 25.


Francois Conradie (Political Analyst)

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