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date: 06 December 2022

Burkina Faso: Military Responses to Popular Pressureslocked

Burkina Faso: Military Responses to Popular Pressureslocked

  • Daniel EizengaDaniel EizengaAfrica Center for Strategic Studies

Summary

Burkina Faso’s military holds an important place in politics. It has intervened in Burkina Faso’s politics, temporarily taking power seven times, first in 1966 and most recently in 2015. Military officers have long held many of the most prominent political offices, and military coups d’état have been the most common method of transferring political power in Burkina Faso. Military interventions have typically addressed moments of political failure and widespread civil unrest. Political agitation from different groups in civil society has pressured every government that has come to power, and the government’s ability to manage these popular pressures has been a key feature in the military’s relationship with any given regime. This was particularly the case in the 1980s, when ideological divisions within the military resulted in four coups d’état, but it was also of consequential importance during Burkina Faso’s 2014–2015 political transition.

The 27-year rule of Blaise Compaoré set in motion a process of institutional reform that expanded civilian authority over the administration of the military. However, it also saw the rise of preferential treatment for certain units of the military, in particular the presidential guard, which provided protection to the regime during moments of civil unrest until 2014. The gradual liberalization of the political system culminated in unprecedented civil unrest in 2014, and Compaoré was ousted from power in what is commonly referred to as a popular insurrection. The political transition following the events of 2014 led to the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian governments in Burkina Faso’s history and marked a potential shift in the military’s relationship with politics. The military’s political role in Burkina Faso often has been dictated by popular pressures on the political system, but gradual democratic reforms during the 1990s and 2000s helped to inculcate norms of civilian control over the military. While much remains to be seen about the future of Burkina Faso’s military in politics, the opportunity for the country’s political institutions to manage popular pressures on its government may indicate a new era of civilian governance and at least the possibility of reducing the military’s interference in politics.

Subjects

  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence
  • Governance/Political Change
  • History and Politics

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