Burkina Faso’s junta says it thwarted an attempted coup

Tuesday night, Capt. Traoré supporters made a public call to "defend" him as rumors of another coup spread.

Burkina Faso’s junta says it thwarted an attempted coup
A man holds his national flag as people gather to show their support to the Junta leader Ibrahim Traore and demand the departure of the French ambassador at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Vincent Bado/File Photo

The backstory: In January 2022, West African country Burkina Faso’s democratically elected government, headed by President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, was ousted by a military coup. A military junta led by Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba took power at the time. Both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union suspended the country’s membership.

But that March, the junta approved a plan for a military-led transition government for three years before holding elections again. While all of this has been going on, Burkina Faso has been dealing with a jihadist insurgency that spread from Mali. Then, another military coup put Capt. Ibrahim Traoré in power about a year ago.

More recently: Last December, another reported coup attempt took place, but Traoré’s government was able to hold onto power. After neighboring country Niger was taken over by a military coup at the end of July, Burkina Faso and Mali set up a defense pact to aid each other in case of rebellion or outside attacks – like from ECOWAS.

There have been some reports of unrest in Burkina Faso in the past months, and the government ended up suspending a French news mag on Monday for publishing "untruthful" articles about alleged tension in the country’s military. Last week, the government said that by the end of last month, 191,937 displaced people were able to return to their homes, with the government saying it had reclaimed several areas that had been occupied by jihadists.

The development: Tuesday night, Capt. Traoré supporters made a public call to "defend" him as rumors of another coup spread. Thousands of pro-junta demonstrators gathered in the capital city, Ouagadougou, in response. On Wednesday, Burkina Faso’s transitional military government announced that it had stopped a coup attempt the day before.

The junta didn’t release a lot of info on the incident but did say that its intelligence and security agencies put the kibosh on it before any major damage was caused. It also said that many of the people involved in the coup attempt have been arrested and that authorities are tracking down others. The coup attempt seems to have also involved some members of the military, with the government referring to “officers” staging attacks.

Key comments:

“Officers and other alleged actors involved in this attempt at destabilization have been arrested and others are actively sought,” Burkina Faso’s junta spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in the statement released Wednesday.

The country’s government says that it “regrets that officers whose oath is to defend the homeland have strayed into an enterprise of this nature, which aims to hinder the march of the Burkinabe people for their sovereignty and total liberation from the terrorist hordes who are trying to enslave them.”