How the Military Entered the Burkina Faso Politics

How the Military Entered the Burkina Faso Politics

Burkina Faso has experienced some military interventions in its political history. These six military actions have influenced the country`s leadership in some ways. In 1965, there were some nationwide protests in Burkina Faso which was, at that time known as Upper Volta. These protests continued at the start of 1966.

The first protest of 1966 started on the morning of  3rd of January. Some schoolgirls and students of Philippe Zinda Kaboré high school came out with placards, asking the government for a better democracy, bread, and clean water.

The peaceful protest also included police officers demonstrating for better treatment. Although President Maurice Yaméogo assured the protesters that he would cancel the salary reduction, union members and the protesting crowd demanded that the president stepped down.

They also begged the army to take executive power from the president. Several hours later, President Maurice Yaméogo announced on radio that the Chief of armed forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana had become the head of state. After the army took over the government of Upper Volta, the country’s constitution was suspended, and the National Assembly was removed.

The November 1980 coup can be said to be the first in Upper Volta .

On the 25th of November of that year, Saye Zerbo planned a coup against President Sangoulé Lamizana who had become the democratic leader of Upper Volta after the 1978 elections.

Saye Zerbo had served as minister of foreign affairs, commander of the regiment in the capital Ouagadougou, and director of the military intelligence agency in President Lamizana’s military government from 1966 to 1976.

Zerbo replaced Sangoulé Lamizana as Head of State, established the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress, and suspended the 1977 constitution. Trade unions in Upper Volta had initially supported Saye Zerbo until he seized power from Sangoulé Lamizana in 1980. The opposition Saye Zerbo faced led to his removal in another coup on the 7th of November 1982. Zerbo was arrested after the 1982 coup d’état, and major Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo became the country’s head of state.

On the 27th of May 1983, Major Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo promised the citizens of the country a quick return to civilian rule and the release of political prisoners of the previous regime.

He announced that a new constitution would be drafted in the next six months, and an election would take place.

He said he wouldn`t participate in the election, and warned soldiers not to participate in politics. Younger civilians were encouraged to contest in future elections, and members of the armed forces would be penalized if they got involved in politics. Captain Thomas Sankara was released from house arrest some days later. The head of state released many political prisoners who were arrested under Saye Zerbo’s military regime.

Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo soon rearrested Sankara after a conflict, but released him after threats from Blaise Compaoré’s military troops.

On the 4th of June 1983, Ouédraogo removed members of his government who supported Sankara from office, and tension between the two men increased.

On the 4th of August 1983, Blaise Compaore started a coup, and military troops were ready to seize the capital, Ouagadougou.

President Ouédraogo had a meeting with Sankara at about 7 p.m.,  and agreed to step down so that a new government may be elected.

Sankara agreed to the proposal but asked for a short while to discuss with Compaoré.

Blaise Compaoré and his men had successfully carried out the coup by 10pm and made Ouédraogo surrender before Sankara could inform them of the meeting.

Ouédraogo was given the option to go on exile, but he insisted on staying in the country, so he was imprisoned at a military camp in Pô the following day.

HE became the new President of Upper Volta, and Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo was officially removed from his post as Minister of National Defence on 23rd of August.

President Thomas Sankara changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso. He brought up many positive changes to the country

It was reported that the relationship of the country with France and the Ivory Coast was becoming weak.

On the 15th of October 1987, Blaise Compaoré planned a coup that led to the killing of Sankara and 12 other officials.

A former Liberian warlord close to Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, revealed the direct involvement and support of Liberian President and war criminal, Charles Taylor.

In September 1989, former military allies of Blaise Compaoré were arrested. Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Henri Zongo were charged with planning to take over the government in a coup attempt.

They were both tried in court, and their death sentence was carried out. Henri Zongo and Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani led the government with Blaise Compaoré until they were accused of attempting a coup.

After this, Blaise Compaoré became the head of state and head of government. No military coup followed, as Compaoré continued to rule Burkina Faso until he stepped down three decades later.


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