In a large demonstration in front of the White House on Sunday, 20th September, Washington-based citizens from Burkina Faso, along with other protestors stood in strict opposition to the US government’s plan to do a military takeover in Burkina Faso, following a military coup in the African country.
The coup took place when the interim government, which was set up last year to oversee the election of a new president due next month, was overthrown my members of the presidential guard. So far, an estimated 10 people have been killed and around a 100 have been injured since the clashes began between the Presidential Guard’s army General Gilbert Diendéré’s forces and the protesters.
How did the crisis start?
The crisis arose last year when the 27 year ruler of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaore, announced to amend the constitutional limits to his ability to run for another presidential term. The decision was met with fierce opposition from citizens, owing to the nearly 3 decade long rule of human rights abuses, corruption, and economic inequality, forcing Campaore to step down. The military eventually set up an interim government to oversee the election of a new President, the process of which has been postponed until next month.
On Thursday, 17th September, Campaore loyalists and members of the presidential guard took over the interim government, saying they were not content with the banning of candidates linked to last year’s bid to extend the presidential term of Campaore under the new electoral law.
The conflict in Burkina Faso stretches back a number of decades. After gaining independence in the year 1960, the former French colony had gone through a number of successive governments. However, the more recent political scenario is linked to the events after 1983 when Captain Thomas Sarkana, who is often described as Africa’s Che Guevara, initiated a socialist movement and took power in a military coup. Camapore, who was one of the most trusted partners of Sarkana, decided to be more than just a part under Sarkana’s rule. In the late 1980’s, Campaore had Sarkana assassinated and took over to restructure the country’s socialist rule into one that ensured his power and authority.
What the presidential guard?
The presidential guard is an elite task force of approximately 1,300 soldiers, who are loyal to the former President Campaore. The presidential guard was set up by Campaore to guarantee his own protection in the aftermath of the assassination of his former friend and ally, Thomas Sarkana, in a coup that transferred power to Campaore. The presidential guard operates independently from the army, which, unlike the former, is less armed despite being greater in numbers.
What is the way forward?
In an effort to reverse Thursday’s military coup, the Economic Community of Western African State (ECOWAS) has proposed a draft plan, under which candidates linked to former President Campaore would be given permission to run for elections, which will be conducted this November. Army General Diendéré would be given amnesty in exchange for giving power back to the civilian interim government.
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