What's In Blue

Briefing on Burkina Faso Coup

This afternoon Council members will discuss the unfolding developments in Burkina Faso under “any other business” following consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force. At press time, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was expected to brief Council members, if the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, currently in Burkina Faso, is unable to brief. A press statement may be issued following the meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, members of the presidential guard, also known as the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), reportedly interrupted a cabinet meeting of the transitional government at the presidential palace. They arrested Transitional President Michel Kafando, Transitional Prime Minister Isaac Zida, and several other ministers.

The detentions occurred two days after a report was issued by Burkina Faso’s national reconciliation and reforms commission, recommending the dismantlement of the RSP, an elite military unit established by former President Blaise Compaoré, and describing it “as an army within an army”. These developments come less than a month before the national elections, scheduled for 11 October, which are meant to conclude the political transition initiated last November after Compaoré resigned amidst popular protests.

In response, the Council yesterday evening issued a press statement, which condemned in the strongest terms the RSP’s detention of Kafando, Zida and the other ministers, and demanded their immediate release. In a statement earlier in the day, the Secretary-General expressed outrage over the detentions. The AU, ECOWAS and the UN issued a joint statement, strongly condemning the actions.

However, earlier today it became clear that the developments represented a coup. A military spokesperson, claiming to speak on behalf of the “National Council for Democracy”, announced in a statement the decision to dismiss Kafando, the transitional government and the National Transitional Council (CNT). The spokesperson sharply criticized amendments to the electoral code banning candidates who supported a constitutional amendment in 2014 that would have allowed Compaoré to run for a third term. He further claimed that consultations were underway to reestablish political order and hold inclusive elections. Meanwhile, it has been reported that General Gilbert Diendéré of the RSP has been placed in charge.

Feltman last briefed the Council on Burkina Faso on 27 August, focusing on tensions in the country regarding the amendments to the electoral code. He and Chambas had also previously expressed concerns over the RSP, including the RSP’s call for the resignation of Zida in February, after he proposed reforms of the unit.

At press time, it seemed likely that the Council would issue a new press statement in light of the military’s dismissal of the government and the confirmation that a coup has taken place. While being briefed on the latest information on developments on the ground, members may in particular be keen to learn about Chambas’ activities, as he has been in Burkina Faso since at least yesterday, including discussions he may have had with AU and ECOWAS representatives. Since Burkina Faso’s protests last year and the military’s temporary seizure of power following Compaoré’s resignation, the UN, the AU and ECOWAS have closely coordinated their approach to Burkina Faso, and co-chair the International Follow-up and Support Group for the Transition in Burkina Faso, which held its fourth meeting in Ouagadougou only two days ago, on 15 September. In addition to discussing mediation efforts, members may consider what further action the Council might take, amidst concerns about the potential for greater violence.

Today UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein issued a statement, urging the coup leaders to avoid any use of force, particularly against anti-coup protestors, while the Secretary-General issued a further statement condemning the coup and demanding the resumption of the political transition.

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