Since coup plotters stepped down in Burkina Faso and embattled interim President Michel Kafando reinstated to power until general elections take place next month, President Muhammadu Buhari and the African Union as well as the international community have been credited with forcing the coupists out of office.
Former President Blaise Compaoré was in office for 27 years but was forced out of office last year when the people rose up against him; replacing him with interim president Michel Kafando who was unseated last week by the head of the presidential guard, General Gilbert Diendéré, who turned around to declare himself the military president on September 18. But the whole country had risen against the takeover and the international community had swung into action, ultimately forcing Diendéré to handover in a show of shame orchestrated by President Buhari and the African Union.
“The [popular protests against the coup] demonstrated that the Régiment de sécurité présidentielle [the presidential guard] did not have control over the vast majority of the country and would not be able to rule for long,” said Eloise Bertrand, a researcher from the University of Warwick.
More so, the regular army resisted the takeover and made it clear it would not take orders from the elite presidential guard but would rather take up arms against it. The army surrounded Ouagadougou, and General Diendéré knew his elite presidential guard was no match for the regular army in terms of number and resources.
The African Union rose against the military coup and sent a strongly-worded message to the usurpers to be ready for a showdown.
“The AU considers the announcement by the military of the ‘dismissal’ of President Michel Kafando and the attempt of substituting him with ‘new authorities’ as null and void,” said the AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a statement.
The regional ECOWAS office also put together a mediation team who worked up a deal that made helped coup leader Diendéré chose to step down.
“Ecowas played a highly significant role that demonstrates the potential for effective regional intervention,” said Frank Charnas, CEO of risk analysis firm Afrique Consulting.
Senegalese president Macky Sall had led the mediators to get Diendéré to leave office, but civil society groups had questioned his plans to grant immunity to the coupists; and then President Buhari had stepped in.
“Certainly, this may aid his image with regard to foreign diplomacy…in the silent war for continental diplomatic influence between Nigeria and Ecowas, and South Africa and SADC (the Southern African Diplomatic Community), the Burkina situation as it currently stands could be chalked up as a victory for the west Africans,” Charnas added.
“Given his status as a former coup leader and now democratically elected president, [Buhari] might have been decisive in calling for the return of the interim president, and that message was directly conveyed to the coup-makers,” said David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
“Burkina Faso will be a reminder that coups or military intrusion can no longer be tolerated in West Africa. It is a strong signal to send coup-makers home empty handed. This is the third leader removed from power in disgrace, including Dadis Camara (Guinea), Amadou Sanogo (Mali) and now Gilbert Diendéré. Democracy has promising days ahead in the region,” Zounmenou added.
The issues before Burkina Faso as the nation tentatively plans elections for November are three-fold: tackling the issues that gave rise to the coup in the first place – which is the oversized functions of the elite presidential guard in governance; the candidacy of former president Compaoré’s buddies in the upcoming polls; and what should be done to public officers who committed crimes when Compaoré was in government.
“It is a step in the right direction in the sense that the transition has been preserved…it shows that the Burkinabé people are still ready to defend what they fought for in 2014 and to prevent anyone from confiscating their revolution,” said Bertrand.