Burkino Faso reels from country’s second coup this year

Capt Ibrahim Traoré took military control on Friday, ousting Leiut Col Paul-Henri Damiba

Burkina Faso is reeling from its second coup this year, in what analysts say may mark a shift towards Russia, with some Russian flags waved in the streets by supporters of new military leader, Capt Ibrahim Traoré.

The 34-year-old took control on Friday, ousting Lieut Col Paul-Henri Damiba, who has agreed to resign.

Burkina Faso’s last military leader, Mr Damiba, is believed to have set conditions for leaving, including a guarantee of his safety and that efforts will continue to return the landlocked West African country to civilian rule within the next two years.

Mr Damiba took over last January, toppling Roch Kaboré. At that time, Mr Damiba said he would improve Burkina Faso’s security situation, but things have not improved.


Speaking on Sunday, Mr Traoré said the country is facing emergencies “from security to defence, to health, to social action, to infrastructure”. It was time for the government to “abandon the unnecessary red tape”, he said. Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military company linked to the Kremlin, are active in neighbouring Mali, and there is speculation that they will be invited into Burkina Faso as well.

Burkina Faso has a population of about 20 million people. About 40 per cent of the country is said to be out of the government’s control, as an Islamist insurgency rages. Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State have been active in the Sahel for the last decade. Thousands of Burkinabés have been killed.

The French government — which has a military presence in Burkina Faso — was seen as an ally of Mr Damiba. On Saturday, the new junta accused France of sheltering him (France denied these claims). On Sunday, images posted to social media showed protesters setting fires outside the French embassy and pulling down the barbed wire that topped the walls. At least one man carried a Russian flag. Videos also showed tear gas in the air and what sounded like gunfire. French citizens living in Burkina Faso have been encouraged to stay at home.

In a televised address, members of the new junta, dressed in military fatigues, called on civilians not to attack the French embassy or other French targets.

Speaking to Radio France Internationale on Monday, Mr Traoré said it will still be possible to hold elections by 2024.

In September, the Norwegian Refugee Council said that nearly one in 10 people in Burkina Faso have been displaced by conflict. More than 600,000 people were in emergency hunger levels, it said. “People forced to move have left behind their fields and livestock. Many displaced families report being down to one meal a day in order to allow children to eat twice. Recent waves of displacement only heighten the urgency to act,” said Hassane Hamadou, the council’s country director.

The organisation said a multiplication of violent attacks drove more people to flee their homes between January and July 2022 than during the entire year of 2021. “Four years after its start, the displacement crisis in Burkina Faso remains one of the three fastest growing in the world,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa