Burkina politics, redux

I had hoped to not have to blog about Burkinabé politics again for a little while. But unfortunately, events have taken a serious turn in Burkina.


The regular military and the RSP agreed on disarmament in their agreement made before the King of the Mossi last Saturday – shown here in a wire service photo from France24, thanks. A number of RSP personnel went to the camp where they were to be reassigned voluntarily, and regular army staff went to the RSP barracks behind the presidential palace, accompanied by a bunch of journalists, and some weapons were handed over. However, a group of RSP men, number unknown, remained in the barracks and are refusing to hand over their weapons. General Diendéré is part of this group and also Djibril Bassoulé, who was a minister under Compaoré and one of the rejected candidates for the presidency.

Now I see where Bassoulé has denied through his lawyer that he is part of or encouraging soldiers to refuse military orders. So maybe their resolve is cracking? Let’s hope so.

The TV showed a very optimistic report of turnover of weapons and of armored vehicles positioned around the barracks, but it now appears that this was exaggerated. Large numbers of weapons including rocket artillery remain in the hands of the rebels. Army units from outside the city have once again entered the city and are taking up positions around the rebel base. American embassy personnel are required to “shelter in place”, and American citizens are urged (by an embassy email Jean – but not I – received an hour or so ago) to exercise caution, maintain good situational awareness, and avoid getting shot at all costs.

From a military standpoint, the position of the rebels appears hopeless. They can certainly hold out in their barracks for some time, but without water or food they will have to give up pretty soon. You don’t need heavy weapons to keep them in there, and the army has plenty of RPG’s and assault rifles. However, on their way down the rebels could probably take quite a bit of the town with them. That’s assuming that their rockets actually work – nobody has given me a good answer as to how operational the military’s heavy equipment is. I don’t think they have had to use it since a short border war with Mali in 1985.

Jean reports that his wife, still in Burkina Faso and in their house in the Ouaga 2000 neighborhood near the presidential palace, reports armored vehicles moving on the main road heading towards the presidential palace and the rebel camp.

And I imagine I’m spending more time in Ghana.


4 thoughts on “Burkina politics, redux

  1. Just talking with Jean about the Mogho Naba intervention in the coup and heard an interesting story: apparently, during the first night or two of the coup, soldiers came to the Mogho Naaba compound and fired in the air in their usual way. Presumably not Mossi people, maybe some of those rumored foreign mercenaries, anyway, because this is just NOT DONE. So, the next day, General Diendéré wanted to pay a call on the Mogho and apologize. The Mogho made the General enter the compound through the women’s gate, symbolically castrating him, and then refused to speak to him. When the peace treaty was finally signed (the one Diendéré and his holdouts are refusing to honor right now), Diendéré was not allowed to be among the delegation from the RSP – he is not in the photo I reproduced above. More junior people had to come to negotiate on the part of the RSP.

    Since the Mogho Naaba and the other traditional kings (there’s one for Bobo Diolassou at least, since one of Djibi’s friends, Siaka, comes from the royal family there) represent traditional legitimacy, this was a big blow to the coup plotters. Anybody who is anybody in Burkinabé politics has to go see the Mogho Naaba and get his benediction before taking up office or what have you.


  2. And, apparently, the Burkinabé military has been participating in the various wars in the vicinity, with RSP members predominating. So they do have combat experience though presumably they didn’t bring their artillery. So I’m still questioning whether those big guns of theirs actually work or whether they actually know how to operate them. I remember in Haiti when the presidential guard decided to shoot at the Battalion d’Intervention with their 105mm howitzer and every single shell failed to explode. Good thing, too, since one hit a tree in the Salesian compound and would have blown all the priests, including Father Aristide, sky-high.


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