The recent military coup in Burkina Faso is the fourth in the West African region in recent times and the sixth successful coup in the continent since 2020. There had been two within the period in Mali, and one each in Guinea, Sudan, and Chad.
The reason given by the military for the coup in Burkina Faso was the elected government’s inability to tackle jihadists who have over the years caused unrest in the country as well as the region.
The army arrested President Marc Kabore on Monday and later in the night announced that his government had been deposed. The whereabouts of the president is still unknown although the officer who announced the coup said he and other officials of his government were being treated with dignity in detention.
The group later identified itself as the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) led by Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, a lieutenant-colonel.
According to Aljazeera, 41-year-old Damiba had been promoted in December by Mr Kabore to command Burkina Faso’s third military region.
He studied at a military academy in Paris, obtaining a master’s degree in criminal sciences from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers.
From 1987 to 2011, he was part of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RPS) of former President Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown in 2014 after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest against his plans to extend his rule.
Security experts, researchers and world organisations are expressing concerns over what appears to be a regression to authoritarianism in Africa – a system of governance that typified colonial and the immediate post colonial Africa; an era of draconian rule, decrees and codes.
More worrisome is the reaction of citizens to the recent military takeovers. The jubilation and celebration among citizens of these countries suggest the fall of democracy and acceptance of military rule.
‘’The world is increasingly moving from democracy to illiberalism, and in West Africa’s case, the pace of the slide towards illiberal democracy, and now into full blown military dictatorship is alarming and shows that democracy on the continent is not in a good place at the moment. The fact that in Mali, Guinea, and now Burkina Faso, we have seen people come out on the streets to celebrate the coups shows that people are fed up with democracy,’’ said Cheta Nwanze of SB Morgen Intelligence.
According to Mr Nwanze, coups put the stability of the region at increased risk.
‘’West Africa is geographically contiguous with North and Central Africa, meaning that instability in one region is a creeping disaster for the next, and as we have more coups with no obvious consequence for the perpetrators, then the temptation for others to do the same increases.’’
He also noted that the possibility of a replication in Nigeria is high, adding however that a coup would be a mistake, given Nigeria’s diversity and the current loss of monopoly of violence by the Nigerian state in different parts of the country.
He added that mass disaffection for the government, insecurity, a young population, inflation, corruption etc. are factors that may encourage a coup in Nigeria.
‘’A coup in Nigeria will be a tragedy of epic proportions,’’ he said.
Mr Nwanze faults the continent’s leadership’s reactionary approach to challenges confronting Africa and its subregions.
‘’Beyond issuing statements of condemnation, regional bodies must embark on a shift from a reactionary posture to a proactive approach. The fertile grounds for coups are basic misgovernance and democratic authoritarianism which these regional bodies never condemn out of misguided respect of the non-intervention principle establishing their charters. This has to change,’’ Mr Nwanze advised.
Owei Lakemfa, former secretary-general of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), said, “while the governments in the region and the African Union have voiced their opposition to military coups, proactive steps have not been taken to bring perpetrators to book. They are also selective. For instance, while they condemned the coups in Mali and Guinea, they welcomed and supported the coups in Zimbabwe and Chad.’’
According to Mr Lakemfa, the forces behind this week’s coup in Burkina Faso are still unclear. They may be another set of military opportunists, errand boys of the French or remnants of former President Blaise Campore’s regime, he said.
‘’This has created fear in the peoples’ minds and also in that of the military which complains about inadequate arms,’’ he said, adding that the insecurity in Burkina Faso, like those of other West African countries, has merely worsened mass poverty which fuels general unrest and provides ready recruits for the terrorists and bandits.
He also added that coups have destroyed professionalism in the military, hence they are not equipped and attuned to fight real wars.
‘’Also, with rampant corruption, huge slices of funds to equip the military have been stolen and there is a lot of reliance on foreign powers. On the other hand, the foreign powers are unreliable as they may work for both sides in the region’s conflicts,’’ Mr Lakemfa said.
He warned that Niger Republic could be next in line of countries to fall to coup plotters if the civil populace is not mobilised to fight and destroy the terrorists, and if mass poverty and hunger are not tackled.
‘’The conventional armies in the region might not be able to withstand the insurgents who drew strength and weapons from the NATO destruction of the Ghadaffi administration in Libya. We also need the support of friendly countries in terms of mass training and weapons supply,’’ Mr Lakemfa said.
Wilson Ijide, a retired colonel and lecturer at the department of psychology and Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, commented on the fear of the Nigerian military toeing the path of Mali or Burkina Faso. He said, ‘’while I may not want to sound as an incurable optimist, I will say that such fear is normal but most unlikely, given the level of professionalism of the Nigerian military in this regard.’’
Like his counterparts, Mr Ijide noted that the fear as to whether democracy is on decline is no longer deniable.
‘’But I must quickly observe that in the absence of a viable alternative, what is more likely is that democracy will be strengthened in the long run. The coups are more to me a testing of the resilience which democracy can offer.’’
He said what is more likely in the failure of democracy, is a mass revolution which is highly unpredictable in its outcome.
‘’ECOWAS and AU must come to the realisation that bad governance has run its full course in Africa and there has to be a change of attitude of their leaders. There must be serious or deep inner reflection on the part of the leadership of these two organisations,’’ the retired colonel told PREMIUM TIMES.
Additionally, ‘’the option of diplomatic engagement is open to them. The context of these military interventions must be carefully analysed and necessary remedies initiated.
I will urge ECOWAS and AU to commission a study into this recurring challenge of military coups. They must do this with all due sense of sincerity of purpose to pull Africa from self destruction.’’
On the role Nigeria must play in bringing an end to the recurring coups, Mr Ijide said the West African giant must make deliberate efforts to resolve its own internal contradictions so that it can move with the required strength and clout.
‘’The Nigerian government, going forward, must look for some of our most respected personalities to be involved in the inevitable diplomatic engagement with the military juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and the rest of them,’’ he added.
Anthony Isa, a former commandant of the National Defence College, also noted that the coup in Burkina Faso is significant as it will encourage and establish a contagion effect.
‘’Its implication is the set back for the essential political and economic development required for emancipation of the affected peoples. This conveys that the sub-region and Africa have a long way to go if unconstitutional change of government becomes the alternative in the twenty first century.’’
Mr Isa said as a matter of fact, Nigeria and Nigerians have a serious cause for worry.
According to him, the insecurity in Nigeria has inputs from countries in the sub-region and the Nigerian government can no longer play the decisive role it used to play, which is required for its security and defence.
‘’Nigerians do not seem to understand their obligations to take responsibility for their country. There is the urgent need for a national consciousness for the development of Nigeria that would have values attractive to other African countries.’’
On the role of ECOWAS/AU, Mr Isa said there is very little ECOWAS/AU can do. “The resort to dialogue, committees, threat of sanctions and resolutions will not have the desired impact as the means for giving effects are not developed and at best feeble and impotent. They have no deterrence values.
‘’There is a need for constructive engagement with respect and the moral courage to deal with bad governance and bad leaders that would not allow nation-state institutions to function for the benefit of all.”
International Community condemns Burkina Faso Coup
Meanwhile, the international community has swiftly condemned the latest military pustch in Africa.
Antonio Guterres, UN secretary general, on Monday on his Twitter page, ‘strongly condemned any attempt to take over a government by the force of arms.’
He added that, ‘’Coup leaders must lay down their arms & ensure the safety of the President and the protection of the country’s institutions.”
The US Department of State, in a statement said it was deeply concerned by events in Burkina Faso.
‘’We condemn these acts and call on those responsible to deescalate the situation, prevent harm to President Kaboré and any other members of his government in detention, and return to civilian-led government and constitutional order,” the statement said.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the coup and said he planned to hold talks on the matter with regional leaders, Radio France International (RFI) reported.
Mr Macron also told reporters during a trip in central France on Tuesday that he had been informed that Mr Kabore was “in good health” and not being threatened.
The African Union had earlier condemned the detention of President Kabore, referring to the incident as an attempted coup.
‘’The President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is following with great concern the very serious situation in Burkina Faso. He strongly condemns the attempted coup against the democratically elected president.’’
He called on the national army and the security forces of the country to strictly adhere to their republican vocation, namely the defence of the internal and external security of the country.
In the same vein, ECOWAS in a statement called detaining the president an attempted coup.
‘’ECOWAS condemns this extremely serious act which cannot be tolerated under the relevant legal provisions.’’
‘’ECOWAS calls on the military to return to the barracks, maintain a republican posture and give priority to dialogue with the authorities to resolve the problems.’’
The Nigerian government has yet to comment on the event as of the time of this report.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To place an advert here . Call Willie - +2348098788999