Burkina Faso military cements power as international pressure mounts

ECOWAS pledges to work with the new government in maintaining regional security as the new government restores the constitution and names the coup's leader as president.

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Image : JOHN WESSELS /AFP

Burkina Faso’s military restored the nation’s constitution on Monday after it was suspended following a coup on January 24.

The constitution includes guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and presumption of innocence under the law, as well as the protection of basic liberties. Its apparent restoration may be an attempt to dispel mounting pressure on the military government.

In a televised statement the junta said it had named the military – officially named the Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) – as the new transitional government.

The leader of the coup Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was officially recognised as the president of the MPSR, and therefore the new interim president.

No timeline was given for the transition period.

Security fears

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met with the nation’s new and former presidents on Monday.

The head of the delegation said that discussions with President Damiba were “very frank” while his predecessor was “in good health.”

“We cannot disclose the discussions, but we can say that we’ve come to see President Kabore. And on the surface, I mean, we’ve had a good conversation with him and he’s in good health,” said Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, head of the ECOWAS delegation and Ghanaian foreign minister

The latest coup could destabilise the region as Ouagadougou fights Islamist militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that are active in the tri-border area, she warned.

“The security situation is a situation that affects the whole of West Africa, and something even beyond West Africa going towards central Africa. And so we will not leave Burkina Faso on its own, we will continue to work with Burkina Faso to fight this menace of terrorism and armed conflict and so on and so forth. So we will work with the new administration, we’ll continue to support, ECOWAS will”, added Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.

Several nations including France, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have deployed hundreds of troops in central Sahel’s “three-border” region, but France recently threatened to withdraw troops as a spat with Mali heats up.

Members of the bloc will hold a summit in Accra on Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions on the country.

ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso on January 28 for ousting its democratically elected government, but will not impose sanctions for now, sources say.

The 15-member council toughened sanctions on Mali on January 9 after a failure by the military government to hold elections following a coup in May 2021. The bloc also imposed sanctions on Guinea following a military coup in September 2021.

Burkina Faso’s military arrested President Roch Kabore on January 24, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the government and parliament.

In a televised statement on Monday, Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo cited the “ongoing degradation of the security situation” in the country and the “incapacity of the government” to unite the population as the driving forces of the takeover.

The mutiny marks the fourth military coup in West and Central Africa in the past year, with coups in Mali, Chad and Guinea.

Economic frustrations

Growing insecurity in Burkina Faso’s northern border with Mali and Niger is fanning discontent as civilian death tolls spiral. Up to 1.4 million people were displaced by the conflict in 2021, representing more than 6% of the population.

Real GDP grew by a mere 1.9% in 2020, while inflation rose 3.2%. Spiralling security costs and the pandemic shock widened the fiscal deficit to 5.7% in 2020 (3.2% in 2019), according to the World Bank. 40.1% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Meanwhile S&P Global Ratings cut Burkina Faso’s sovereign credit rating deeper into “junk” territory, to ‘CCC+/C’ from ‘B/B’ on Wednesday following military coup, and placed its outlook on review from a previous status of ‘stable’.

Gunfire erupted early on January 23 in the capital Ouagadougou when soldiers seized control of a military barracks in the capital in a spat over the government’s allocation of resources in the battle against ISIS and ISIL.

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