Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Burkina Faso Ends Coup on Peaceful Terms

By Jennifer KimPublished October 2, 2015

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Since the coup of 2014, Burkina Faso has been looking forward to a new democratic election in October. However, a recent coup by the disposed ex-president's personal guard threw the nation into a crisis for several days, with people protesting in the streets and troops converging on the coup's leaders. While the crisis was ultimately resolved with coup leaders backing down through a compromise and the new election set for November, the future of peace in Burkina Faso is still far from clear.
On October 11th, Burkina Faso was set to elect a new leader to replace the long-serving ruler Blaise Compaore ousted last year in a coup. However, members of Compaore's old guard took over the government in a coup of the interim government, which plunged the future of the election into uncertainty, . Compaore, who was ousted after a popular uprising last year, set up a presidential guard (RSP) during his term—an elite unit of approximately 1,300 soldiers who were loyal to Compaore and designed to ensure his protection. The RSP, smaller but better armed and trained than the nation's army, operates independently from  the nation's army The RSP is now worried that a new president will  bring about its  demise, and has announced its  unhappiness with the electoral law that bans candidates attached to last year's bid to extend the president's time in office.

President Michel Kafando, president of the interim government, and his followers have been replaced by the National Council for Democracy (CND). The CND has accused the interim government of "mismanaging" the transition; on the other hand, on September 14th, a commission of the interim government recommended the disbandment of the RSP.

Since the coup began on September 17th, people have taken to the streets in protest as much of the general public was eager to see the RSP disbanded—particularly those who backed the overthrow of Compaore in October 2014. Many of them had hoped that the new elections would lead to improvements in the impoverished country, where accusations of corruption are rampant. On the other hand, members of the CDP, the former ruling party, are surmised to be much less upset, as they had previously voiced concerns over their exclusion from October's election due to their ties with the former president. They argued that the elections should be inclusive, not exclusive, with the electorate allowed to decide the next president.

After less than a week of power, a dozen deaths, and over 100 people injured, the coup leader, Gen. Gilbert Diendere agreed to stand down in the face of both troops converged upon the capital and angry protests in the streets. He stated on September 21st that "given the seriousness of the security situation" and  "chaos, civil war and massive violation of human rights," the the CND would stand down as soon as a political compromise was reached.

In the three days preceding Diendere's public statement, a regional team led by President Macky Sall of Senegal brokered negotiations. Compromises were met--Diendere agreed to  stand down and allow President Kafando to return to power, while the coup leaders would be given immunity from prosecution Additionally, allies of  former President Compaore will  be permitted  to participate in the upcoming elections, which is now  rescheduled for  November 22nd.

While it appears that little was accomplished through the coup, the inclusion of Compaore's former allies in the upcoming elections brings significant change. Considering public backlash to Compaore's reign, it is uncertain how the election will turn out for the CDP—or whether their inclusion will incite even more public fury. Furthermore, while the coup was led by the RSP alone, the compromise draws questions as to how involved the CDP was, that they were able to obtain the very goal they had earlier voiced. Although peace may have been reached for now, the months ahead will determine how long that peace can last.