In October of last year, Blaise Compaoré stepped down after nearly three decades as President of the West African nation of Burkina Faso amid a popular uprising that some likened (in spirit anyway) to the protests that defined the Arab Spring.
On Thursday, October 30, Compaoré sought to pass legislation that would have paved the way for a new 5-year term. Here's how WSJ describes what happened next:
That ambition was thwarted by tens of thousands of his compatriots, who swarmed the streets of the capital Ouagadougou. They set fire to the parliament building where the vote had been scheduled to take place, among other government offices. They tore through hotels and shops seen as pro-regime. Up to 30 people were killed in rioting, a French diplomat said, citing preliminary reports.
As the Journal went on to detail, "under Compaoré’s rule, Burkina Faso [had] seen an explosion of young people flocking to its cities. Many seek the perks of metropolitan life—jobs, spending money, a chance to travel abroad—only to find themselves on the underside of an economy where just 5% of working age adults are employed full time, according to a 2013 Gallup Poll." “We wanted a change, that’s all. If we people didn’t complain, it would have never happened," one citizen told the paper.
But the push for democratic reform would be short lived. Predicatably, several members of the military immediately declared themselves leader prompting the US and France to warn that if army officers took power, Compaoré’s outster would be considered a military coup. Around three weeks later, former foreign minister Michel Kafando was named interim President by a committee made up of military, religious, and political leaders.
Fast forward to the present. Burkina Faso had planned to hold free elections (viewed as a turning point for its democracy) on October 11, but that hope was dashed virtually overnight on Wednesday when, apparently in retaliation for a government decision to disband the Presidential Guard, the elite military unit (which served the Compaoré regime for decades) arrested President Kafando along with Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida.
Here's Reuters with more:
A shadowy spy master formerly the right-hand man to toppled President Blaise Compaore seized power in Burkina Faso at the head of a military coup on Thursday, less than a month before elections meant to restore democracy in the West African state.
General Gilbert Diendere, who for three decades served as Compaore's chief military adviser and operated an intelligence network spanning West Africa, was named as the head of a military junta called the National Council for Democracy.
The power grab led by the presidential guard unfolded three days after a government committee recommended dissolving the elite unit, which was a pillar of Compaore's 27-year rule and has repeatedly meddled in politics since his fall.
A spokesman for the coup leaders hinted at a political agenda to back a return to power by loyalists to Compaore, who has remained in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast since he was toppled by a popular uprising in October last year.
Under Compaore, Burkina emerged as an important regional ally of France and the United States against al Qaeda-linked militants. It hosts some 200 French special forces as part of France's Barkhane regional anti-terrorist operation.
On Thursday, soldiers fired warning shots to disperse a crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered in central Independence Square of the capital Ouagadougou. Soldiers drove the streets in pick-up trucks, beating and detaining demonstrators.
And more from WSJ:
The coup, which was confirmed in a television and radio announcement on Thursday, was greeted by protests in the capital Ouagadougou, which turned deadly as the demonstrators clashed with soldiers. At least 12 protesters were killed by soldiers during the clashes, according to a pro-democracy movement called Balai Citoyen, or Citizens With Brooms.
At least one presidential candidate said his home had been ransacked by the army, as the military attempted to regain control of the situation. However, the troops have struggled to quell the protests in the country at large.
A curfew is now in place, and the military has closed the borders. Here are the visuals:
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We suppose the question now, is how the West will view the coup in light of the spread of Islamist conflicts in neighboring Mali. We also wonder what this means for the future of Operation Creek Sand.