International community united in condemning Burkina Faso coup

Burkina Faso Captain Sidsoré Kader Ouedraogo

Captain Sidsoré Kader Ouedraogo, the spokesman for the Burkina Faso junta, announcing on television on January 24, 2022 that soldiers had taken power and 'put an end to the power' of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

Photo credit: Radio Télévision du Burkina | AFP

Monday’s military coup in Burkina Faso has prompted a chorus of condemnations from around the world, as the junta seeks to consolidate its control of the West African country.

Soldiers calling themselves the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR) on Monday announced they had dissolved the government of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and suspended the constitution and parliament, the culmination of days of unrest across the country.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have been joined by the United Nations and Western countries in condemning the military action and calling for the release of the president.

The AU and Ecowas described the situation as an “attempted coup”, calling on the military to return to their barracks.

Ecowas, in new statements responding to the situation, on Tuesday announced a planned summit to discuss it.

“Ecowas strongly condemns this coup by the military, which marks a major democratic setback for Burkina Faso. An extraordinary Ecowas summit will be held in the coming days to review this situation,” it said.

For its part, the office of the chairperson of the AU Commission called on the military to stick to their constitutional responsibility and for the government and all actors to favour political dialogue as a means of resolving the country’s problems.

The statement cited Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission chairperson, calling "on the national army and the country's security forces to strictly adhere to their republican vocation, namely the defence of the country's internal and external security".

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that he was following developments in Burkina Faso “with deep concern” and condemned any attempt to take over a government by the force of arms.

“Coup leaders must lay down their arms and ensure the safety of the President and the protection of the country’s institutions,” Mr Guterres said.

The coup came after three days of public demonstrations over the government’s handling of the insecurity that has plagued the country for the past six years. In that time, Burkina Faso has experienced several coups and attempted coups.

Kabore was first elected in 2015, following a popular uprising that ousted longtime leader Blaise Compaore, who held power for nearly three decades.

Kabore was re-elected in November 2020 for another five-year term. But his administration faced repeated demonstrations due to frustration caused by his inability to stem the spread of extremist violence.

Displacement of 1.5 million people

That violence is linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS and has led to the killings of thousands and displacement of an estimated 1.5 million people, according to the UN.

Heavy losses by the military in its response to the violence have also fuelled frustration within the ranks of the army.

Reports on Tuesday indicated that an army officer detained at a military camp where mutinous soldiers held sway on Monday has been released. Gen Gilbert Diendere was detained for his involvement in the failed 2015 coup.

Local media reports indicated that calm prevailed in most parts of the capital city, Ouagadougou, with many businesses, including banks, shut.

Soldiers were also reportedly surrounding the headquarters of the state broadcaster - RTB - which had interrupted its programming.

But in some parts of Burkina Faso, people were celebrating the military takeover.
Meanwhile, junta leader Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba has promised to return the country to constitutional order after one year of transition, according to a statement on Monday.

The coup in Burkina Faso has compounded the problems facing Ecowas, which has struggled to prevent a return of military coups in the region, following three coups in Guinea and Mali in the last 18 months.

In its earlier statement on Burkina Faso, the bloc said it would hold the military responsible for the well-being of the deposed president.

France, Burkina Faso’s former colonial power, also joined the chorus of condemnations, as did the United States.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France was "clearly, as always" in agreement with Ecowas in condemning the military takeover.

France has been leading Western intervention against the Islamist insurgency affecting five countries, including Burkina Faso, in the Sahel region.

Lately, public anger against France, particularly in Burkina Faso and Mali, has flared up over its alleged role in fanning the insurgency.

As in Burkina Faso, the Mali coups were triggered by frustration in the army over the government’s failure to support them in fighting the Islamists.

The US said it was “deeply concerned” by the events and called on the military to de-escalate the situation. It also called for the release of the deposed president and members of his government.

“We acknowledge the tremendous stress on Burkinabé society and security forces posed by ISIS and JNIM but urge military officers to step back, return to their barracks, and address their concerns through dialogue,” the US State Department said in a statement.

“The United States is closely monitoring this fluid situation, and we call for restraint by all actors as we carefully review the events on the ground for any potential impact on our assistance.”

Meanwhile, junta leader Lt-Col Damiba on Tuesday assured the world that Kabore and his cabinet members were in good health at an undisclosed location.

In one of his latest decrees, the new Burkinabe strongman ordered all professional heads of ministerial departments to assume responsibility in running them “until further notice”.