Research studies

The democratic Reform Policies and The Military coup in Burkina Faso 2010-2015

Researcher: Sherif Mazen Isamil Farag – Democratic Arab Center

Democratic Arab Center


          The Military coup Phenomena Consider one of the most important Characteristics That makes An African continent different from the other continents as by 1979 the half of the African countries were ruled by military commands and generals and also we can say that most of an African countries were ruled by military authority more than civilian authority or leadership, however some of an African countries did not witnessed any military coup or military plots like (south Africa , Namibia ,Botswana, Mauritius, cape Verde and Eritrea )while other African countries witnessed failed military coups like (Zambia, Zimbabwe , Senegal, Cameroon, Angola and Mozambique)so according to some estimations in 46 years African countries witnessed 80 successful military coup ,108 failed military coup and 139 military plots so ,this made An African continent the continent of the military coup.([1])

Some of African countries witnessed an efforts to achieve the devolution of the political power through popular revolution to end the idea of the domination of the military generals on the political rule and then, they started to complete this popular revolution by the democratic reform Policies .these democratic reform policies tend to get rid of the remains of the post martial system and a clear example of this kind of African countries is Burkina Faso as it witnessed a martial rule by  BlaiseCompaoré who made a military coup and took the power from Thomas sanakra,who was killed in this military coup, BlaiseCompaoré ruled Burkina Faso for approximately 27 years and did not give any space to the opposition or to other political parties as his political party ,the ruling party, dominate all the political positions.([2])

As result for the political and financial corruption, the reduction of living standards  ,the limited job opportunity and the increasing of the unemployment Burkina Faso witnessed a popular revolution which succeed in overthrowing BlaiseCompaoré. Then a Temporary government was formed and Michel Kafando was selected as Temporary president he started to Implement the democratic reform policies, which was introduced by the people in Burkina Faso After The revolution,the main  points ofthese points are (Get rid of the remains of the former regime ,especially  dissolve the Presidential Security Regiment which was formed by BlaiseCompaoré–making Constitutional amendments- forming Roadmap for presidential elections and parliamentary elections),but when the Temporary president started to Implement these points the  generals of Presidential Security Regiment made a military coup ,detained Michel Kafando ,declared the dissolving of the Temporary government and consider the army in general and the Presidential Security Regiment inparticular is responsible for managing the Transitional phaseandits arrangements.([3])

Research problem:

once the temporary president Michel Kafando start to implement the democratic reform Policies the military made a coup ,and this leads to rise two points of views, first one argued that the democratic reform policiesis the main reason behind declaring the military coup as theses policies consider the driving force for the military to declare the military coup  while the other point of view argued that regardless to the democratic reform  policies the army or the military had no intentions to end its dominance on the ruling system and they introduced some Evidences to prove their point of view such Thomas sanakra was martial leader also BlaiseCompaoré was president with martial background and even the temporary president  Michel Kafando is also martial leader so the main question of this research paper isTo What Extent Had the Democratic reform policies affected on out breaking the military coup inBurkina Faso in 2015?

Sub questions:

And this major question Originates some minor questions :

1-what is the nature of the democratic reform Policies and their main points ?

2- what is the role of the military in Burkina Faso ?

3- what are the main reasons behind the failure of  Burkina Faso’s military coup?

Paper outline:

These three questions will be reflected in the sections of this research paper, as the research paper consists of three sections:

First section : the nature of the democratic reform Policies .

Second section: the role of the military in the ruling system in Burkina Faso.

Third section : the main reasons behind the failure of Burkina Faso’s military coup.

The Time of The study will be from 2010 because this year witnessed the Re-election ofBlaiseCompaoré and his efforts to change the constitution to remain in powerto 2015 because this year witnessed officially the failure of the military coup in Burkina Faso.

First section: the nature of the democratic reform policies.

Firstly we should mention that this democratic reform Policies consists of some demands that introduced by the people in Burkina Faso After the revolution to correct all the mistakes of the predecessor regimes ,this system or the group of points was planned to be implemented in the Transitional period to prepare the country gradually to be democratic it contains a lot of points but in this paper we are going to focus on specific points that maybe consider motivation for the military to make military coup.

the First point that we are going to explain is  making Constitutional amendments such as article 37 which was suggested  to be changed to increase the number of presidential terms from two to three and increase the presidential period itself to be five years , also some articles that concentrate the real power in the hands of ruling political party and limiting the political space to other parties ,also The formation of the People’s Assembly  by appointing not by electing . these articlesand some others means that  Booting new Mandate of the rule to BlaiseCompaoré, so the suggested constitutional amendments after the revolution were ,first  determination of the number of presidential terms in two terms only and also the determination of the presidential period in four years ,second allow to all political parties , not the extremists ones, to participate in the political life and to have their own financial resources away from the central government ,third emphasizing on the formation of the People’s Assembly and local councils by electing not by appointing to ensure therepresentation of citizens, and finally The adoption of a new electoral law by the temporary Parliament that banned the participation of the members of the previous Regime in the political life ,which means confiscating their rights to nominate in the general elections.([4])

The second point in the democratic reform Policies is dissolving  the Presidential Security Regiment which was formed by BlaiseCompaoré as people in Burkina Faso Start to recognize that the Presidential Security Regiment is a big threat on the revolution especially when thePresidential Security Regiment declared that it will introduce some of its members ,who were serving  BlaiseCompaoré as political and  military officers , as presidential candidates, and these threats were ensured after appointing Yacouba Isaac Zida, who consider the second man of BlaiseCompaoré, as temporary prime minister, so the temporary president  Michel Kafando declared the suspension of the Presidential Security Regiment under the pressures of people in BurkinaFaso and this Declaration led the General of Presidential Security Regiment Gilbert Diendere to make the military coup because he thought that this is the beginning of  The elimination of the privileges of military .the time of the military coup was very crucial as it happened insome weeks before the presidential election . here we have two arguments of the reasons of the military intervention in politics inBurkina Faso ,First the InterferencebetweenBlaiseCompaoréand the military institution as it helped  him to leave Burkina Faso Safely and it ignored alot of his mistakes in return BlaiseCompaoré was providing the army with economic resources asthere was Interactive relationship between the ex president and the military institution so when this relationshipDisrupted the military intervene , second  the military intervene for its own interest.([5])

The last point in the Democratic reform policies is setting date for Democratic Election to elect the President as the election was determined to be held in 11 October 2015 but the military coup rise the ability to cancel this democratic Election , and indeed this formed a real challenge to the masses in Burkina Faso and the revolutionary Movements as all the revolutionary powers understand that canceling the democratic election means the failure of the Revolution and they will return again under the rule of the military But After The Failure of the Military coup in Burkina Faso The temporary council of ministers, prime minister and the temporary president Michel Kafando hold their first meeting after the failure of the military coup and they agreed that the democratic election in Burkina Faso will be held in 29 November 2015 , but it was strange that all theses democratic reform policies and also the mobilization of masses to make revolution happened Randomly without any organizing and this rises a big question about the role of the civil society and political parities in Burkina Faso.([6] )

Second section: the role of the military in the ruling system in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso witnessed a lot of military coups and military played an  important role in long period of Burkina Faso’s history. It witnessed a chain of military coups since its independence in 1960  about  7 military coups .the first was at January 1966 and the last one was in 2015. almost all presidents in Burkina Faso after independence came by military coup except two after the revolution, The nature of the rule of the military in Burkina Faso differ from a leader to other due to different factors such as personal characteristics , his education ,The ability to attract people love and the way he came to the power and how he use it. some leaders did not continue in ruling the country foralong term such as Sayezerbo  the third president to Burkina Faso after independence who didn’t rule the country just for 2 years form 1980 to 1982 and followed it a military coup by Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo who rule the country for a year then Thomas Sanakara came by military coup.([7])

But there is a  different between Sankara and other presidents of military leader in Burkina Faso its true that Sankara  came by military coup also like the others but he achieve a lot of things in Burkina Faso  unlike the others, which make The people did not forgot him till now . his domestic policy focused on preventing famine with agricultural self-sufficiency and land reform, ,giving the priority to education campaign for literacy across the country, promote public health by vaccination of 2.5 million children, in addition to planting 10 million trees program in order to stop desertification, which is the first of its kind in the history of Africa.Sankara aimed to  fight against corruption and the dominance of the French colonial power, Characterized his foreign policy focused on anti-imperialism while avoiding foreign aid, and to avoid the International Monetary Fund Intervention .His achievements made him a famous icon in Burkina Faso  named him African guevara  only in 4 years.([8])

The role of military increased in BlaiseCompaore’sera ,Compaore came also By a military coup on his friend Sanakra After decades of  military coups and absence of civilians in head of the authority this led to presence weak elite of parties and civilians parties that also under controlled by military leaders in addition to the presence of ex-military leaders and chiefs who retired from the service but still have  relations with the institution and give support . every military leader came to the power did not come alone he had his men in parliament and state ‘s  institutions  to give him a legitimate  base to pass laws and dominate over the political and partisan life  and control over decision making process and ministerial posts. BlaiseCompaoré’s success was due to his ability  to build a semi-authoritarian regime on its base  weak military dictatorship, moving towards democracy without ever achieving it, and creating apparently  free and open political system. his regime is based on three key institutions: the military, a political party and the traditional chiefs. This architecture allowed him to create the stability that his predecessors never achieved while keeping enough control over society and politics to govern without real opposition and giving civil society enough space through asubtle game of alliances, compromises and illusions([9])

Political party :  After entering military leaders in political game and political parties especially  Blaisecampaore ’s party that dominant in the parliament about 70 seat from 123 he was needed only  82 vote and he pass his Constitutional amendments such as article 37 he could afford them by his men in the parliament and passing it ([10])

The military : the main institution in the country that support compaore the military has been the main guarantor of the stability of his rule.  stability within the army goes hand in hand with political stability. This is all the more important in Burkina Faso given that the political opposition is too weak to offer an alternative through elections. The military remains the institution most likely to overthrow the government and then the military  needs to be able to control it and protect itself. Due to the importance  of military in compaore’s rule .he needs always to secure himself and his role from a military coup so military could had a hegemony on the country  resourcesand  Decisions to increase military expenditures and the dominance of the economic resources especially cotton exports also army extent of the possibility of turning Burkina Faso to be an industrialized country, where most of the workforce in the agriculturesector and work only to earn their own living and  small percentage is exported cotton despite the fact that the internal need him. ([11])

The internal policy of Army policies is the privatization of state-owned economic companies to attract overseas investment to increase the army returns There was no attempt by the president to put a plan to transform Burkina Faso to be an industrial country. therefore Burkina Faso among the poorest countries in the world which the ratio of people under poverty line about 47% And the president couldn’t reject what the military want to ensure that there is no new military coup on the other hand the military give the support to compaore in the face of the weak opposition , minorities and civil society in the political and economic decisions, the support of the military to compaore and the important  role of it in the country  afford him to stay more years His success in mute supporters of Thomas Sankara, buy  them with money, and the margin of national them , and keep activists them from politics and disappear everything related to the life of Thomas Sankara, and agreement with France to host the family of Thomas Sankara and didn’t give anyone the chance to open an investigation insankara’s murder case,also the military support and role in Burkina Faso made blaisecompaore tocontrol over the traditional chiefs and religious leaders and afford to them money and positions in parliament and his political party to guarantee stability and full control over all the merchants and the rich in Burkina Faso full control of the senior officers and turning them to his disciples, and selection of the elite to guard him in the presidential guard system.([12])

due to this military support  to the political system and failure of the party system to do his role in  mobilizing people  in political participation and communicate with the people  in forming the government policy it was not easy to hand power to civilian  president  comes by fair elections. people in Burkina faso had done a revolution that came Michael kandofo a military leader to regulate the temporary period that end by became capore elected president so it was cleared that the role of the military had begun with the sense of patriotic ,fighting the remains of colonialism, then it developed to be concentrated on the political power and weakened both the civil society and political parties ,so the people cannot be mobilized by any organization, then  in parallel with  the military control over the political power it controlled over the main economic resources.

Third section: the main reasons behind the failure of Burkina Faso’s  military coup institutional.

No sooner had the military coup in Burkina Faso occurred then it failed quickly, as it started in 17 of September 2015 as the temporary president Kafando who was Removed from power and taken as a hostage with the prime of minister Isaac Zida by the military coup leader Gilbert Diendere, and it ended in 23 of September with president Kafando returns to the power, continuation of the Transitional period for the elections ([13]), which took place in 11 October and brought Marc Kabore. Followed with apologize from general diendere who admitted that the coup was a wrong step then he was arrested and his financial assets was frozen. so it was one of the shortest and foiled military coups in the history of the continent, this failure came as a result of a combination of factors some of them were external and the others were internal and institutional factors, and this will be illustrated in this section([14]) .

The external factors first, The regional pressures: as a one of the African union policies, the region organization suspends Burkina Faso membership, as the African union organization establishment came to face the phenomenon of the globalization and the weakness of each country if they stay solo in the new international system, the military leader with the presidential security regiment absolutely cannot continue in this illegally step and they will be significantly paralyzed in facing the Burkina Faso’s issues and there would be increasing in internal problems economically and socially.

Economic Community of West African States issued a statement in which condemned the coup and considered it an terrorism, unjustified and irresponsible action([15]). also the President of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union announced that the coup leaders are facing sanctions include a travel ban and the freezing of funds and set a date for the handover of power, but General Diendere announced that he will not hand over power only as determined by the economic Community of West African States, which played a role to negotiate with him in order to reach a peaceful solution([16]).

In addition of the African union situation, there were an enormous opposition from neighboring countries which also played the role of mediator In an attempt to calm the flaming situation to avoid entering the country in a bloody conflict between the presidential security regiment on one hand, the army and people on the other hand. What confirms this the delegation which was led by Senegal’s President MackySall,who is the current president of Economic Community of West African States and Benin’s president Thomas BoniYayi and they reached in the end to an a solution accepted by general Diendere.([17])

 Second, the international pressures: Pressures on the military coup leaders did not based on the regional level, but also extended to the international level, as the coup faced strong condemnation from presidents of several countries, the most prominent was from the French President Francois Holland whose office issued a statement in which condemned the coup and called for the immediate release of President Michel Kafando and prime minister Isaac Zida and return interim authority to them to continue the democratic transition ([18]). Moreover, United Nations issued statement included condemnation of the coup and the secretary general of the United Nations strongly disturbed by this action and called for “the continuation of the political transition process in accordance with the Constitution of Burkina Faso and the Transitional Charter” andHe called the Burkina’s army and security forces in Burkina Faso, especially the presidential security forces, to exercise restraint and ensure respect for human rights and security for all citizens of Burkina Faso, also calls on all national stakeholders to refrain from using violence. In addition, The United Nations has been involved in the mediation process side by side the Organization of Economic Community of West African States ([19]).

The internal factor first- people role: the people’s role considered one of the most Pressure factor that led the coup leaders to back down and tried to beautify his image by announced that they did not want to rule. As hundreds of people gathered in Independence Square to protest against the seizure of power by arresting interim president and his prime minister and demanded their release. The Presidential Guard soldiers used the bullets to disperse them Which led to a number of deaths ([20]).

As the west explain the conflicts in the black continent by the differences and consider the biggest problem that facing Africa is the ethnic divisions and religious plurality which lead always to the economic, political and social problems. the people of Burkina Faso proved that this explanation is not completely right, as the Demonstrators and protests put ethnic and religious differences aside and expressed unitedly there completely rejections of the attempt to end determination that they started in October 2014([21]).

Second- the institutional factor:  In an unusual move, the army intervened to prevent the coup and seeked to achieve political reforms and the process of transition power to an elected authority, as we mentioned before that  presidential security forces were configured to protect the dictator BlaiseCompaoré independently from the national armed forces, therefore when the National Commission for Reconciliation and Reformation began repair this imbalance of existence a military force beyond the control of the national armed forces and sought to cancel and re-distribution of the elements of the presidential guard between the various units of the army. As well as the law prevents Compaoré supporters of the election. So it was clearly evident that the reform process has become threaten the control of these forces after a 27 year of controlling the power. Therefore the presidential security forces did the coup faced by armed forces that asked the Presidential Security forces on Monday 21 of September in an official statement to deliver arms and threatened in the statement that it would spread in the capital with the caveat that the mean goal is to return the coup leaders from that move. That is what actually happened when the coup leaders apologized and expressed the acceptance to negotiate to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in order not to break out in civil war and respect human rights.([22])

 The Conclusion:

From all what we mentioned in the three main sections of the paper we can say clearly that  the role of the military in Burkina Faso in political life especially reduced significantly because of a combination of factors, the popular desire in the formation of a new political system that is based on the principles of democracy is considered the most important factor which has been reflected in the conduct of elections that took place in 29 November and the victory of President Marc Kabore, as well as the Burkina Faso’s national army’s role is a major factor, as it – in an rare step- seeked to develop institutional frameworks which make armed forces away from interfering in political life, which had been shown through the role of the national army in facing the coup of the presidential security forces.

the study also reached that the political reformation which occurred in Burkina Faso was the main reason of the military coup, as the presidential security forces has generated a sense of loss of centers of power in Burkina Faso, which was dominant during the previous decades; as the political reform requires the cancellation of this group and distribution them under the national army leadership, so in an unsuccessful attempt the coup leaders try to end this threat and stay in the power.

The case of the military coup in Burkina Faso has shown the failure of justification adopted by the West that the reason for the increasing in conflicts and disputes in the continent because of the ethnic and sectarian plurality in the continent; as the protesters who demanded from the beginning to end BlaiseCompaoré regime and those who protested against the military coup were not a particular race or ethnic that its interests in the departure of the military from power but they were just Burkina’s citizens.


Firstly the Arabic references:

1-Amin Mohamed,“30 0ctober revolution in Burkina Faso”, Qiraat African, 27 June 2015.(in Arabic)

Available on:

2-AoufMervet, “military coups changed system rule Burkina Faso”, Sasapost ,13 September 2015.(in Arabic)

 Available on:

3-NbhanAdel, “Burkina Faso between the coup and the revolution and an uncertain future”, Fekr online,  19 March 2015 .(in Arabic).

Available on :

4-“The military coup in Burkina Faso”, Arabic Euro News,19 June 2015. (in Arabic)


Secondly The English References:

1-Ariotti Molly and Singh Naunihal,“Can Burkina Faso- Africa’s most coup-prone state-  become a stable democracy?”,Washington post,14 march 2015.

Available on

2- Ben BarkaHabiba&NcubeMthuli, “ Political Fragility in Africa: Are Military Coups d’Etata Never-Ending Phenomenon? ”, African Development Bank ,22 September 2012,pp1-20.

Available on :

3-BjarnesenJesper&Lanzano Cristiano, “Burkina Faso’s One-Week Coup and its implications for free and fair elections”, Nordic Africa Institute , 15October 2015,pp1-17.

Available on:

4- OuobaAhmed, “Burkina Faso Charges General Who Led Failed Coup”, New York Times, 15 June 2015.

Available on

5- Kobo Kingsley, “ Burkina Faso: Ghost of ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’” ,Aljazeera  ,31 October 2014,pp1-4.

Available on:

6-ZounmenouDavid , “Risks ahead of the constitutional referendum in Burkina Faso” ,Institute for Security Studies ,23 August 2014,pp1-15.

Available on :

7- “Burkina Faso after or without compaore times of uncertainly”, Crises Group reports,15 July 2014, pp1-20

 Available on:

8-“Burkina Faso coup: ‘Breakthrough’ in talks”, British broadcasting corporation,11 September 2015.

Available on:

9-“Burkina Faso coup leaders’free President Kafando”, British broadcasting corporation,11 December 2015.

available on:

10-“Burkina Faso’s president and prime minister arrested in apparent coup”, The Guardian , 15 June 2015.

Available on:

11-“Condemning coup, UN officials call for immediate release of Burkina Faso’s leaders”, United Nation Reports,17 August2015.

Available on:

12- “ECOSOCC Statement against the Military Coup in Burkina Faso”, African Union Pages,

 19 July 2015.


13- “Why Burkina Faso’s coup failed?” ,The Economist(African Politics), 19 November 2015.

(1)-Habiba Ben Barka&MthuliNcube,“ Political Fragility in Africa: Are Military Coups d’Etat a Never-Ending Phenomenon? ”, African Development Bank ,22 September 2012,pp4-6.

Available on :

(2)-JesperBjarnesen&Cristiano Lanzano,“Burkina Faso’s One-Week Coup and its implications for free and fair elections”,Nordic Africa Institute ,15October 2015,pp3-5.

Available on:

(3)-,JesperBjarnesen&Cristiano Lanzano,Ibid, pp 6-7.

(4)-David Zounmenou , “Risks ahead of the constitutional referendum in Burkina Faso” ,Institute for Security Studies ,23 August 2014,pp5-8.

Available on :

(5)- Adel Nbhan ,“Burkina Faso between the coup and the revolution and an uncertain future”, Fekr online,  19 March 2015 .(in Arabic).

Available on :

(6)-JesperBjarnesen&Cristiano Lanzano ,Ibid,pp 9.

(7)-Mervet aouf, “military coups changed system rule in Burkina Faso”, Sasa post ,13 September 2015.(in Arabic)

 Available on:

(8)- Kingsley Kobo, ”Burkina Faso: Ghost of ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’” ,Aljazeera  ,31 October 2014,pp1-2.

Available on:

(9)-“Burkina Faso after or without compaore times of uncertainly”, Crises Group reports,15 July 2014,pp11-17

 Available on:

(10)-“ Burkina Faso after or without compaore times of uncertainly”, ibid ,pp19.

(11)-Mohamed Amin,“30 0ctober revolution in Burkina Faso”, Qiraatafrican , 27 June 2015(in Arabic)

Available on:

(12)-Adel Nbhan ,“Burkina Faso between the coup and the revolution and an uncertain future”, ibid.

(13)- Molly Ariotti and NaunihalSingh ,“Can Burkina Faso – Africa’s most coup-prone state-  become a stable democracy?”,Washington post,14 march 2015.

 Available on :

(14)-Ahmed Ouoba, “Burkina Faso Charges General Who Led Failed Coup”, New York Times, 15 June 2015.

Available on :

(15)-“ECOSOCC Statement against the Military Coup in Burkina Faso”, African Union Pages , 19 July 2015.

Available on :

(16)-“Burkina Faso coup leaders’ free President Kafando”,British broadcasting corporation,11 December 2015.

Available on:

(17)-“ Burkina Faso coup: ‘Breakthrough’ in talks”,British broadcasting corporation,11 September 2015.

Available on: .

(18)-“Burkina Faso’s president and prime minister arrested in apparent coup”, The Guardian , 15 June 2015.

Available on:

(19)-“Condemning coup, UN officials call for immediate release of Burkina Faso’s leaders”, United Nation Reports,17 August2015.

Available on:

(20)-“The military coup in Burkina Faso”, Arabic Euro News,19 June 2015. (in Arabic)


(21)-“Why Burkina Faso’s coup failed?” , The Economist(African Politics), 19 November 2015.

available on:

(22)- “ Burkina Faso army issues ultimatum to coup leaders”, Aljazeera ,19July 2015.

Available on:

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