From Sept. 2015
A military coup threw Burkina Faso back into political turmoil this week, less than a year after a popular uprising ousted a long-serving autocrat and brought hopes of democratic change in the West African nation.
On Wednesday, soldiers burst into a cabinet meeting and took the country’s interim President, Prime Minister and two government ministers captive.
The coup leaders, calling themselves the National Council for Democracy, appeared on television on Thursday to announce that they had taken power. Thousands poured onto the streets around the country to protest the coup.
Protests against the power grab continued in cities around the country, and union leaders announced a nationwide strike.
The coup was carried out by members of the presidential guard, known by its French acronym RSP. The elite unit was set up for self-protection by (the former President)Compaore and is seen as still loyal to the former president.
Compaore is living in exile in the Ivory Coast.The seizure of power was led by his closest political ally. Gen. Gilbert Diendere was Compaore’s right-hand man during his nearly three decades of autocratic rule.
The generals claimed to be acting in the interest of the country, saying that the upcoming elections would be too divisive because Compaore’s supporters were barred from running. The transitional government passed an electoral law in April blocking members of Compaore’s Congress for Democracy and Progress party -- and anyone who supported his bid to extend his rule last year -- from elected office.
However, the unit may have had even more pressing concerns -- to stop the interim government disbanding it. Two days before the coup, the government’s national reconciliation commission had recommended the RSP be dissolved and its members integrated into the national force, saying it had become "an army within an army."
The combination of massive public protests and political opposition, as seen in Burkina Faso, has in the past stopped the military uniting behind coup leaders. And the RSP, a force of around only 1,300, will need the rest of the military’s support to keep control of the country.
Burkina Faso is a close military ally of the U.S. and France in their fight against extremist militants in the region, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Qaeda linked groups in Mali. So, world powers have an interest in preserving their alliance, and ensuring the country remains stable.