Coups in the West: Is Burkina Faso Next?
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The people of Burkina Faso woke up to the sounds of gunfire on Sunday 23 January 2022. Just before dawn, it sounded like the capital and two other cities were under a fierce assault. Though it was clear to the people in the country, this was the result of an angered military. Just a few months prior President Kaborè made sweeping changes to military leadership in an effort to ease tension within the military ranks. Just earlier this month the government arrested dozens of military personnel on suspicion of conspiring against the government.
The US embassy in Burkina Faso reported gunfire at five military bases. The gunfire started at Ouagadougou's Sangoule Lamizana camp which housed prisoners from the failed 2015 attempted coup. The country, and much of West Africa, is on high alert for a potential coup. Many of Burkina Faso’s neighbors have succumbed to a military takeover including Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan. In November, the UN West African envoy warned that Burkina Faso may be next.
Many citizens are angry at the way the government and the military have been handling the ongoing incursion of al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants. As they slowly take parts of the country and force citizens to harsh rules, these terrorist organizations rained havoc on the population killing over 100 soldiers and civilians last year.
As rumors started to spread around the country, many young activists in Ouagadougou took to the streets. The protesters were calling for the ousting of President Kaborè and a military takeover. Riot police were quickly deployed and used tear gas to disperse the growing crowd.
With rumors flying around the country like the Harmattan winds the Burkina Faso government quickly issued a statement. They denied that a coup was attempted and insisted that it was still in full control. The Defense Minister later appeared on national television denying the rumor that President Kaborè was in custody, although the only action from the President on Sunday was a tweet congratulating Burkina Faso’s national soccer team on its win. The Defense Minister also assured that unrest was confined to “a few barracks” and that the government was learning the demands of the soldiers.
As nightfall came, the dissenting soldiers still had control of the bases. A spokesperson for the dissenting soldiers read out their demands: appropriate resources and training to fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the resignation of army and intelligence chiefs, and better support for the families of killed or wounded soldiers. More protesters came to the streets as well chanting for the dissenting soldiers to “Free the country!”
The idea of an attempted military takeover has continued to rise since the protests in November ousted the Prime Minister and much of the President’s cabinet. A recent attack on 23 December 2021 in the northern province of Loroum left 41 people dead. As militants continue to wreak havoc on the northern part of the country, many civilians fear for where and when the next attack might be. The militants are targeting military bases as well as gold mines which is one of Burkina Faso's main sources of income. Now, as the sun rises on a cool Monday morning, internet services are still shut down. The government imposed a curfew and canceled school for Monday and Tuesday citing security concerns.
For the rural women of Burkina Faso, little has changed. They are just starting the worst of the dry season with many months still ahead of them. They can use the extra hands the next few days to gather what little firewood and water could be found. No matter the situation in Burkina Faso, farmers like the ones FarmSahel is assisting still need their essentials. While a peaceful democracy must prevail in Burkina Faso, many still go to bed at night hungry, cold, and anxious about how to get the next meal for their family.