Military Men Reset Relations in Burkina Faso
Since 2016, Burkina Faso has been engulfed by extremist violence. This crisis has progressively extended with at least 40% of Burkina Faso territory under the control of different factions of the Islamic State in the Sahel and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin ( JNIM). Against the backdrop of this progressively deteriorating security situation, the country recorded two coup d’états in 2022 which further cast a shadow on the path to a stable democratic society. In January 2022, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba overthrew President Kaboré – the first democratically elected civilian President in the country’s history – citing the latter’s incapacity to resolve the crisis only to be overthrown by Captain Traoré eight (8) months later in November 2022.
Over the past year and under the military, the security situation has further deteriorated drastically. While Captain Traoré has been able to reconquer a few jihadist-occupied towns, they continue to sustain major losses on the battlefield. The most recent major loss includes the killing of at least 51 gendarmes in an ambush near Deou in the Oudalan Province in the far North last week. This extremist conflict has internally displaced at least 2 million people causing a serious humanitarian crisis. For instance, according to the Ministry of Education, at the end of 2022, over 22% of education institutions were closed due to the insecurity putting at least 51 000 children out of school. Famine and disease are killing hundreds in some of the towns under terrorist blockade where humanitarian aid cannot reach. Furthermore, the terrorists have recently begun to target civilians to deter them from supporting the government.
Commentaries and media reports discussing these recent political developments in Burkina Faso have highlighted how uncertainty and lack of sound strategic planning may lead to further chaos. But they underestimate the existence of a political culture of easily reaching consensus, mobilisation, and common action in Burkina Faso. They also pay insufficient attention to local social dynamics and the current global geopolitical context which offers a fertile ground for the experimentation of an unconventional political project. This analysis problematises the simplistic over-attributions of the current dynamics to foreign actors which delegitimise local agency. It seeks to deliver a critical analysis for understanding the pathway the country is embracing. It calls on think tanks, regional organisations, and development partners to renew their engagement in Burkina Faso to help envision democracy in a post-jihadist, post-military reality.