A screen grab captured from a video shows Capt. Kader Ouedraogo speaking on a state television 'RTB' in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on January 24, 2022. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A band of soldiers in Burkina Faso, a West African nation of 21 million people, has overthrown President Roch Kaboré’s government and seized power. The mutinous soldiers attacked the presidential villa in the early hours of Monday, exchanging gunfire with government security forces. It’s not clear how or when, but at some point during the exchange, Kaboré was taken by the soldiers to an undisclosed location.
What do the soldiers say?In a televised address last night, the soldiers, under the banner of the newly established “Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration”, said that Kaboré was removed because he had failed to keep the country safe. A series of militant attacks has seen hundreds of Burkinabe killed in the past few years, and the soldiers argue this campaign of violence, “threatens the very foundations of our nation.”The statement, read by a junior soldier but signed by coup leader Lt-Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, only promised to return the country to democratic rule in “reasonable time.” What's happened to the president?The president’s whereabouts are unknown. However, French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed Kaboré is in “good health” despite widespread reports on Monday that he had been shot. Kaboré also released a statement yesterday calling on “those who have taken up arms to lay them down in the higher interests of the nation” in order to “safeguard our democratic achievements.”
What’s the response been like in Burkina Faso? Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered on the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, to celebrate the fall of Kaboré governments, mirroring similar demonstrations seen in recent months against the government’s inability to stop the militant attacks. For now, the coup appears to have significant support, but that could change fast.
How has the international community responded? The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the region’s main political and economic union, has condemned the coup and warned the military leaders to transition back to democratic power as soon as possible. The head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called on the coup leaders to “lay down their arms & ensure the safety of the President and the protection of the country’s institutions.”What happens next?Nobody really knows. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite anywhere for Kaboré’s return to power, while it’s not clear what Burkina Faso’s new military leaders mean when they say the country will return to democratic rule in “reasonable time.” ECOWAS’ influence in the region has waned in recent years, making it difficult for the alliance to force the soldiers to give up power. What does seem certain is that the military regime will quickly lose any support they may have from the general public if they are unable to protect the nation from militants.