Burkina Faso: the next domino?

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson on April 12 called on the international community to protect Burkina Faso from terrorism, warning that attacks on the country's infrastructure or security would undermine social cohesion within the country, impair inward investment and further destabilize the region. Burkina Faso is particularly vulnerable due to its geographical proximity to the conflict in Mali, with which it shares a border. Emmerson described the country's role in regional peace negotiations:

Burkina Faso plays a critical role in promoting peace and dialogue within the sub-region. It will almost certainly occupy an important mediating position in the forthcoming negotiations concerning the future of Mali, and will significantly contribute to the maintenance of any settlement that is reached.

There are additional sources of tension within the country which could contribute to radicalization and extremism, high unemployment and poverty in particular. The country faces unemployment rates reaching as high as 77%, and nearly half the population falls beneath the poverty line.

From Jurist, April 13


  1. Burkina Faso mobilizes troops to Mali
    Nearly 600 Burkinabe soldiers have arrived at Markala military base in central Mali (Ségou region), part of a force taking over from 200 elements of French First Infantry Regiment based in Angoulême. News that some of the Burkinabe forces will be deployed to Timbuktu has sparked rumors that French forces will start withdrawing from the city. The populace is said to view the French as their only defense against a return of the Islamists. (LeMonde, April 12; BBC News, April 8)

  2. Riots rock Burkina Faso

    Youth clashed with security forces in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Oct. 28 as tens of thousands took to the streets to oppose a measure allowing President Blaise Compaore to extend his rule beyond 30 years. According to AFP's estimate, the early turnout was well above a previous mass protest in August that saw 100,000 people march against a move to prolong Compaore's 27 year rule. Protesters carried banners reading "Blaise Get Out!" and "Don't Touch Article 37," in reference to the constitutional term limit that risks being scrapped to allow the president to seek re-election next year.

  3. Army seizes power in Burkina Faso

    Burkina Faso's military seized power on Oct. 30, with the head of the armed forces announcing the dissolution of government and parliament and the creation of a transitional body to run the country after violent protests against Oresident Blaise Compaore. (AFP) But Compaore says he will stay in power under a transitional government for a year, until his current term expires. (BBC News)

  4. Burkina Faso president resigns

    Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore announced his resignation Oct. 31, after protesters continued to mobilize against his rule. Army chief Gen. Honore Traore said he had taken over, although it is unclear if he has the backing of all the military. There was a euphoric atmosphere in the Place de la Nation as thousands of protesters heard that Compaore is no longer their president. But the crowds have no intention of going home, as they are unhappy with Gen. Traore as transitional head. Traore, who was Compaore's aide-de-camp, is seen as too close to the ousted president. Protesters have been chanting "Lougue, Lougue, Lougue"—in support of retired Gen. Kouame Lougue, a former defense minister who fell out with Compaore in 2003. (BBC News)

  5. Burkina Faso and US ‘national security’

    An ABC News commentary, "Why Upheavel in Burkina Faso Matters to US National Security," notes:

    One of the world's poorest countries, Burkina Faso sits in West Africa between the two operational zones of two major terrorist organizations—al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali to the north, and Boko Haram in Nigeria to the east.

    As such, the government of Burkina Faso—like its neighbor Niger—previously agreed to allow American spy planes and drones to operate from its airfields, according to a 2012 report by The Washington Post. The Post called Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou a "key hub of the U.S. spying network" in the region, from which the U.S. conducted a surveillance mission code named Creek Sand out of a small air base built on to the international airport there.

    In its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department said Burkina Faso was a "strong U.S. security and defense partner in the region" and said that that year, the government "aggressively undertook measures to combat the regional danger posed by terrorist organizations."

    "The Government of Burkina Faso has recognized the importance of regional stability as an element in the fight against terrorism," the State Department said.

    An unnamed US official is quoted saying: "The location of Burkina Faso is strategic, if you look at the other sides of it. It's an important, strategic place for CT [counter-terrorism] efforts and it's one of those places that needs to be calm… He [Compaore] is a guy that we've sort of been able to work with to help with some of the issues in the region, in terms of being able to use Burkina strategically to counter the unsavories in the neighborhood. This change is a change that [the US government] is going to have to contend with."

  6. Burkina Faso: military divided over who rules

    A split has emerged within Burkina Faso's armed forces over who is leading the country following the resignation of President Campaore. The presidential guard's second in command, Col. Isaac Zida, now says he has assumed power as head of state—hours after army chief Gen. Honore Traore said he had taken over. (BBC News)