from Africa in Transition

Burkina Faso Coup End Is Good News

September 24, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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The resolution of Burkina Faso’s week-long military coup that temporarily ousted a civilian interim government is a good example of “African solutions to African problems.” The coup was rolled back by the relevant regional organization, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), under its chair, Senegalese President Mackay Sall. Directly involved in the roll back were the presidents of Ghana, Benin, Togo, Niger, and Nigeria. A lead negotiator was the former ECOWAS Director President, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, now the head of the UN office for West Africa. ECOWAS has long pursued a policy that military coups are not acceptable.

The elite presidential guard led by Gilbert Diendere deposed Burkina Faso’s interim civilian government on September 16. The plot leaders are close to deposed dictator Blaise Compaore. Their motivation appears primarily to have been fear that those close to Campaore were going to be excluded from power and influence, first by the interim government and then by the administration that will result from elections initially scheduled for October. Friction between the presidential guard and regular army units also played a role.

The coup was denounced by the African Union (AU), the UN Secretary General, and numerous national governments, including those of France and the United States. The AU and ECOWAS were proceeding to levy sanctions on the coup organizers. Civil war threatened when units of the army opposed the elite presidential guard. Civil war was averted by the ECOWAS heads of state meeting in marathon meetings in Abuja. The ECOWAS intermediaries apparently have secured an agreement from all parties that restores the civilian interim government, postpones elections by one month, and military units on all sides have stood down.

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