Here’s some background on what’s happening in Burkina Faso

The interim president of Burkina Faso,  Micheal Kafando, who was taken hostage during the coup masterminded by General Gilbert Diendere, the former Chief of Staff to the former president, Blaise Compaore, has declared that he is back in charge of the country. The coup which started on September 17, 2015 was carried out by the members of the presidential guard, also known as the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP), who were not happy that the former president’s time in office was not extended.

Compaore set up the presidential guard, a group of about 1,300 soldiers, in 1987. There are speculations that the presidential guard staged the coup because they were worried that they might be disbanded by the new government.

Burkina Faso is no stranger to coup

Burkina Faso is a West African country that gained its independence from France in 1960. With a population of over 17 million people, it is the 19th most populous country in Africa. Since its independence, Burkina Faso, which was then known as Upper Volta has been a consistently vulnerable to coups within the government.

After the first president, Maurice Yameogo assumed power in 1960, he placed a ban on all political parties in the country except the Voltaic Democratic Union of which he was the leader. Soon after in 1966, due to protests by the civil societies, students and labour union, Yameogo was displaced by the military.

The military, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Sangoule Lamizana ruled Burkina Faso for four years. By 1970, the citizens started clamouring for civilian rule, and when elections were later held in 1978, Lamzania was democratically elected as the president. Lamizana was overthrown in a coup by Col. Saye Zerbo, one of the former foreign ministers in Lamizania’s government.

During Zerbo’s regime, he eradicated the previous government constitution and instead, the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress was established as the ultimate authority.  Within two years of Zerbo’s reign, trade unions started protesting against his rule leading to another coup by Maj. Dr Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo.

1984 marked the beginning of a revolutionary political landscape in Burkina Faso. Thomas Sankara who became the president in 1983 following a coup (plotted and executed by Blaise Compaore) that ousted Ouedraogo, favoured policies that prioritised education and health priorities. He also focused on fighting corruption and putting a stop to famine. Sankara was assassinated in 1987 with twelve other officials in a coup organized by Blaise Compaore, his deputy and ally.

Compaore, who would hold this position for the next 27 years- reverted many of Sankara’s policies. He was later elected as the president in 1991 and re-elected in 1998.  Even though there was an existing constitutional law limiting a president to two terms, Compaore contested for a third term in the 2005 election and he won.

Compaore continued his reign until June, 2014 when he proposed to amend the constitution to enable him re-contest and extend his 27 year rule. In response to his proposal, citizens protested, setting fire on government and parliament buildings. He then declared a state of emergency and proposed a transitional government. On October 31st, 2014, Compaore resigned as the president of Burkina Faso.

Lt. Col Issac Zida, a member of RSP, initially took over as the interim head of state but after a lot of pressure from the African Union to appoint a civilian to rule the already troubled country, it was proposed that Kafando and his team will handover to a new government when the elections scheduled to hold on October 11 2015, are over.

When members of the RSP led by General Diendere seized power from the transitional government during a cabinet meeting, last week, Micheal Kafando and Issac Zida were detained by the soldiers and Diendere announced that the transitional government was reversed.

Since the detention of the transitional head of state, prime minister and other cabinet members, a lot of pressure has been put on Diendere and his army. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon condemned the coup and  the African Union suspended Burkina Faso’s membership. West African diplomats have also seized the assets of coup leaders and barred them from traveling.

The fate of the upcoming elections is still unclear 

In a bid to bring peace in Burkina Faso, a group of West African Presidents led by Macky Sall, the president of Senegal a group of West African leaders met with Diendere in Ouagadougou to discuss and negotiate in order to bring an end to the coup and restore the former government. Diendere reportedly agreed to allow Kafando return to the office in exchange of immunity from prosecution.

On September 23, 2015, the interim president Micheal Kafango was finally reinstated exactly a week after the coup started and the country’s elections originally scheduled for October may not hold until November 22, 2015.

During this latest coup, 12 people were reportedly killed and over a hundred injured.

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