On Sunday, January 23, 2021, heavy gunfire was heard near President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s residence in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. Hours later, reports confirmed that mutinying soldiers had successfully detained the president at a military camp in the nation’s capital.
State news shared that soldiers first took control of the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in the capital, before moving to other military bases in the town.
Civilians who drove into town to show support for the rebellion were broken up by security forces firing tear gas, according to state news.
Conflict In Burkina Faso
The West African country with a population of 21,135,000 has suffered increasing attacks by fighters linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda, leading to the killing of thousands and displacement of a total of 1,441,000. Three major Islamic extremist groups operating in the nation are Ansarul Islam, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
Despite being a foremost gold producer, Burkina Faso is one of West Africa’s poorest nations owing largely to unending insurgency and drought. Militants have seized control of gold mines and farmlands, forcing residents that remain to abide by their harsh version of Islamic law.
The militants are known to attack western interests, including convoys belonging to major international mining companies and in recent times, the military bases in the country.
Public anger erupted in November 2020 after gunmen killed 49 military policemen and four civilians in an attack near a gold mine in the northern town of Inata. According to reports, the buildup of outrage from the general public and the military set the stage for Sunday’s mutiny by the military.
According to a spokesperson for the mutinying soldiers, the soldiers are demanding appropriate resources and training, an increase in manpower, better welfare for wounded soldiers and their families and the resignation of the army and intelligence chief.
The mutinying soldiers, alongside anti-government protesters, are also calling for stronger actions to stop Islamist terrorism in Burkina Faso.
President Kabore who was re-elected for a second term in 2020, has been criticized by many for his handling of the ongoing struggle against Islamist militants.
Sunday’s coup would be the second coup in Burkina Faso since 2015, which saw the ousting of Blaise Compaoré, who himself came to power through a military takeover and ruled the country for 27 years.