Scroll Top

Understanding the Forces behind the Coups in Burkina Faso and Niger

Photo: Reuters

The political landscapes of Burkina Faso and Niger have been marred by instability and frequent power turnovers, largely due to recurrent military coups. To understand who is behind these coups, we first need to delve into the political history, the role of the military, and the influence of external actors in these countries In Burkina Faso, the military has a long history of involvement in politics. The country has experienced multiple coups, with the military playing a significant role in each. The most notable coup occurred in 1987 when then-President Thomas Sankara, a charismatic and progressive leader, was ousted and assassinated in a coup led by his close aide, Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré went on to rule the country for 27 years until public protests forced him from power in 2014. After Compaoré’s exit, a transitional government was established, but it was short-lived as the presidential guard, loyal to the former president, staged a coup in 2015. This coup, however, was unsuccessful, and the transitional government was reinstated. Since then, Burkina Faso has faced continuing security challenges, including jihadist attacks, ethnic conflicts, and political tensions, which some argue set a fertile ground for potential future coups. The military and its factions have, therefore, been key players behind the coups in Burkina Faso. The reasons behind their actions often revolve around power struggles, personal ambitions, grievances, and reactions to social unrest.

Like its neighbor, Niger has had a tumultuous political history, with a series of coups since its independence from France in 1960. The military has been a significant player in these coups. For instance, in 1996, Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara seized power in a military coup. He was, in turn, assassinated during a coup in 1999.  In 2010, another military coup ousted President Mamadou Tandja, who had attempted to amend the constitution to extend his rule. The military junta then handed over power to a democratically elected government in 2011.  The military’s involvement in Niger’s coups often arises from internal power struggles and reactions to perceived unconstitutional actions by the sitting government. As in Burkina Faso, the military’s role is prominent, often serving as both the catalyst and the executor of political change. Beyond the internal dynamics, external actors also play a role in the political instability of these nations. For instance, the geopolitical strategies of former colonial powers, particularly France, have been implicated in the political instability of Francophone Africa, including Burkina Faso and Niger. France maintains significant military and economic interests in the region and has been accused of supporting regimes beneficial to its interests. Moreover, the proliferation of jihadist groups, like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), has exacerbated the political instability, creating conditions that can facilitate coups. Niger are complex and multifaceted. The military, with its significant influence, has historically been the primary actor instigating coups in both countries. These actions often stem from internal power struggles, personal ambitions, grievances, and reactions to perceived unconstitutional actions or social unrest. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these military actions occur within a broader socio-political context. Economic difficulties, widespread poverty, social inequality, and ethnic tensions in both countries create an environment ripe for political instability and upheaval. Additionally, the influence of external actors, like former colonial powers and jihadist groups, adds another layer of complexity to the political landscape. For instance, France’s ongoing military and economic interests in the region have often been implicated in the political instability of these countries. Meanwhile, the rise of jihadist groups such as AQIM and ISGS has further destabilized the region, creating conditions conducive to coups. The recurring military coups in Burkina Faso and Niger therefore represent a confluence of internal frustrations, external influences, and historical precedents. To ensure lasting stability, it’s vital for these countries to address these underlying issues, fostering an environment that encourages democratic governance, social justice, and economic development.

Bu Roberto Casseli

Related Posts