Repeating Coups D’Etat And Terrorist Attacks In Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a Western African country which gained independence from France in 1960. Burkina Faso means “Land of Upright Men”. The name of the country goes back to Thomas Sankara, who only governed for 4 years, from 1983 to 1987, but deeply marked the identity of the African country, which was in the process of building up its national independence and emancipation. He supported anticolonialism and endogenous, autonomous development; he was attentive to culture and education, to the environment, and was a convinced supporter of female emancipation.

Unfortunately, Sankara was assassinated in 1987 and was succeeded by a very close collaborator, Blaise Compaoré, who held power for 27 years. His government soon turned into a repressive regime: 110 political murders can be attributed to him and his collaborators. Presently, the situation in Burkinabé – or, Burkina Faso – is deteriorating, so much so that between 2010 and 2011 almost half of the population lived below the poverty line. The regime fell in October 2014, as a popular uprising ends Compaoré’s government. In 2021, he appears as a suspect in Sankara’s death trial.

The first terrorist attack in Burkina Faso took place on 15 January 2016. Now, there are four or five terrorist attacks and raids on villages in the northern regions every day. Thus begins the season of terrorism, which still lasts and represents one of the main problems which Burkina Faso faces. Its seriousness is compounded by the fact that jihadist gangs often mingle and unite with pre-existing groups of bandits. The territories in which these militias move become sorts of ‘no man’s land’ where criminal clans of different origins obey and pursue different ends, on a collision course with each other. These different parties often participate in large illegal trafficking of weapons and drugs, in the business of seizures and the artisanal exploitation of gold mines. The central government is absent or vexatious. As a result, the civilian population does not trust it, nor any established institution.

Furthermore, analysts also explain the situation in Burkina Faso as one of the long repercussions of the Libyan crisis, which brought weapons, means and militia first to Mali and then to the north of Burkina Faso. In the early years, the strategy of terror was characterized as a clash between different groups of Islamic extremism. There are currently six different acronyms in the region, five of which are inspired by Al Qaeda and one by ISIS. Then, jihadism became a form of control of the territory, which is expressed itself through attacks on the “symbols of Western power” (churches, barracks) or the vital places of the population (markets, water access points, places of production of small local crafts). In fact, the North of the country is now ungovernable. Terrorist groups have also fostered and fanned the flames of tensions between various ethnic groups.

In September 2022, another coup d’etat took place, the second in 8 months. Burkina Faso is now led by Captain Ibrahim Traoré of the Burkinabe Armed Forces. Reportedly, the interim parliament was dissolved and the constitution suspended: the borders of the country are closed for the moment, with a curfew imposed until 5 am. According to the ‘Armed conflict location & event data project (Acled)’ in a year spanning from 3rd March 2022 to 3rd March 2023, Burkina Faso suffered 4764 fatalities.

The civil wars in Burkina Faso are just some of the many forgotten wars which plague our world. The instability which began in the 1980s does not seem to be ceasing any time soon. Peace should be upheld and the international community mobilised, particularly institutions such as the UN and the European Union. These institutions have as one of their aims to foster peace and therefore could be forces of good in African countries.


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