Burkina Faso Suspended From African Union Following Coup

The African Union has voted to suspend Burkina Faso following the country’s military coup. The A.U.’s Peace and Security Council released a statement announcing their decision “to suspend the participation of Burkina Faso in all A.U. activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country.”

A military faction seized power in Burkina Faso and forcefully removed President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré from office, citing Kaboré’s inability to combat increasing terrorist attacks launched by I.S.I.L. and Al Qaeda. Following Kaboré’s 2020 re-election, he faced widespread criticism over his inability to address the country’s security crisis. Since 2015, over 2,000 Burkinabé citizens have died in these attacks. The rising violence has forced an additional 1.5 million people to flee.

The junta announced that Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba would replace Kaboré as president. Furthermore, the faction announced that it had dissolved Burkina Faso’s government, parliament, and constitution, as well as shut down the country’s borders.

The Economic Community of West African States (E.C.O.W.A.S.) suspended Burkina Faso just days before the African Union would vote to do the same. As part of a joint delegation between E.C.O.W.A.S. and the U.N. Office for West Africa and the Sahel (U.N.O.W.A.S), U.N.O.W.A.S. head Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh is traveling to Burkina Faso to assess the situation and meet with coup leaders. E.C.O.W.A.S. suggested that the results of these meetings would influence its decision on implementing sanctions.

Burkina Faso is the third Western African country to experience a coup in the last year and a half. Mali and Guinea were both suspended from E.C.O.W.A.S. and the African Union following their respective coups. E.C.O.W.A.S. also heavily sanctioned both countries.

Burkina Faso gained independence from French colonization in 1960, marking the beginning of the country’s period of instability. Starting in 1966, the nation would experience a series of bloody coups, ending when Blaise Compaoré claimed the presidency in 1987. Compaoré ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years until he was ousted and exiled in 2014.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Burkina Faso’s future. The country faces attacks from ISIL and al-Qaeda, instability in surrounding Western Africa, and now must rebuild its political system. The E.C.O.W.A.S.-U.N. delegation can help the leaders of this coup begin to address these issues. However, Burkina Faso requires long-term international aid. The junta needs to allow free, fair elections and the international community should urge it to do so.