A Coup In The Making In Burkina Faso?
by Stratfor 15/4/11
Members of the Burkina Faso presidential guard mutinied in Ouagadougou late April 15 in an incident that has the hallmarks of a coup d’etat. Reportedly dozens of the elite unit members were shooting inside the presidential compound with light and heavy weaponry. Shootings have also been reported at the country’s state radio station as well as at the residence of the army chief of staff which has reportedly been ransacked. The whereabouts of President Blaise Compaore is not clear. AP cited an anonymous source saying Compaore is not in the presidential residence. However, the credibility of this source and the information is unverifiable.
The mutiny in Burkina Faso comes a couple of weeks after Compaore agreed to meet with dissident soldiers to try to resolve pay and other disputes that soldiers in different cities across the West African country have protested over. Clashes involving dissident soldiers have occurred on a sporadic basis throughout Burkina Faso since mid-February following the death of a university student while in police custody. As recently as March 23, shootings involving soldiers took place in Ouagadougou as the troops protested the perceived ill-treatment they believed was being meted out towards a fellow soldier accused of a sex scandal.
Beyond the local pay conditions of members of Burkina armed forces, a probable coup attempt is directly linked to recent events in neighboring Ivory Coast. Compaore has long been the leading external African backer of top members of the new Ivorian government, including the new President Alassane Ouattara as well as his Prime Minister and Defense Minister Guillaume Soro. These two successfully overthrew the regime of former President Laurent Gbagbo on April 11.
Ivory Coast’s new armed forces, the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI), were previously known as the New Forces, loyal to Ouattara, until early March. FRCI are directed by Soro , who has long been harbored by the Compaore government. Soro, together with another top leader of the former New Forces Ibrahim Coulibaly, received training, equipment, and weapons from the Burkinabe government following their 1999 failed coup attempt against the Ivorian government of then President Henri Konan Bedie. As for Ouattara, he is half-Burkinabe (his father was born in Burkina Faso), and the legitimacy of the new Ivorian president’s citizenship has long been controversial. In the 1980s, Ouattara worked in international financial positions on a Burkinabe diplomatic passport. Compaore’s mediation of previous Ivorian crises included a peace deal in 2007 that saw Soro become Gbagbo’s prime minister, a position Soro held until the November 2010 election when he quit Gbagbo’s cabinet to join Ouattara. Clearly, Soro used his prime minister position in the Gbagbo government to gather extensive intelligence on the capabilities of Gbagbo’s armed forces. Coordinating his own campaign against his former boss following the controversial November election was the latest trigger to the current Ivorian crisis.
Soro was in Ouagadougou as recently as early March to meet with top members of the Compaore government. Soro’s several day stay in Ouagadougou immediately preceded the launch of the FRCI’s military offensive that began in western Ivory Coast and culminated in the French and UN-backed assault on Gbagbo’s presidential compound in the Ivorian commercial capital of Abidjan on April 11 when Gbagbo was captured. The rapid assault by the FRCI on Abidjan, as well as the robust presence of Coulibaly’s “Invisible Forces” in Abidjan, together combined to form that ground forces that defeated the Gbagbo regime. Such successful operations were probably the result of extensive training, logistical assistance and material equipment provided to the New Forces by the Compaore government. Burkina Faso has waged a steady campaign of covert assistance ever since the Ivorian 2002-2003 civil war.
Having helped his proxies finally seize power in Abidjan after two failed attempts stretching back to 1999, Compaore will expect significant patronage towards his government by Ouattara, Soro and Coulibaly. However, Gbagbo’s forces probably have maintained covert agents of their own in Ouagadougou in an effort to repay in kind Compaore’s actions. It is known that Gbagbo’s regime cultivated intelligence agents in Ouagadougou to observe the activities of the New Forces there. Instigating a coup against Compaore would not be out of the question for Gbagbo who clearly viewed the actions against his regime in Abidjan as tantamount to war. Inciting a coup against his West African rival would be a revenge move but also an effort to undermine the rebel militia base that underwrote Ouattara’s overthrow of Gbagbo. The former Ivorian president could use Brukina Faso’s unrest to support his own recovery and return from house arrest.
With Gbagbo deposed from power and currently held in an undisclosed, secure location in northern Ivory Coast, sympathizers from his regime have probably tried to activate agents in Burkina Faso. Certainly pay conditions in the Burkinabe army would be meager but the shootings April 14-15 did not involve ordinary foot soldiers. Rather, the incident was led by members of the presidential guard, the best paid and equipped members of the country’s entire security apparatus. A likely coup attempt occurring in Ouagadougou is probably stirred up by Gbagbo elements in an attempt to overthrow the foreign backers that provided the means for Gbagbo’s own Ivorian political and military enemies to bring him down.