Ibrahim Traoré Hot after leading coup in Burkina Faso

  • He has risen to power on the promise of getting rid of terrorists groups in Burkina Faso
  • He wants to regain control of the country and its resources 
  • He has made his frustration toward France clear and is looking for allies in Russia and Mali 
EKokou / (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Why is Traoré’s temperature hot ? 

Answer: Traoré rose to power after leading a military coup, becoming the world’s youngest leader. 

On September 30, Burkina Faso experienced its second military coup of 2022. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, leader of the coup and formerly the head of an artillery unit of the Armed Forces of Burkina Faso, declared himself head of state, replacing Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba. Damiba rose to power nine months earlier when he organized a military coup, overthrowing the democratically elected president Roch Marc Kaboré. As internal conflicts continued under Kaboré, Damiba used insecurity as a justification to overthrow him. However, as the conflict did not subside, Burkinabe citizens questioned Damiba’s leadership, which became the basis to Traoré’s seizure of power. 

Since coming to power, Traoré has managed to dismiss the transitional government and suspend the constitution, allowing him to cement his influence in the country and among the governing junta. On the 14th and 15th of October, the junta organized a national forum where Traoré was designated as the transitional president. However, the new interim president is not blazing as the junta is divided. During the coup d’état in September, the pro-Traoré and pro-Damiba camps came close to clashing and splintered the junta’s unity. Had Traoré received a unified support for his coup, he would have been blazing, however, with the junta divided, the young leader will have to navigate his role with less backing. 

What is changing Traoré’s temperature? 

Answer: The growing violence despite Damiba’s promise of making Burkina Faso safer.

Traoré’s temperature has increased after he became the interim President of Burkina Faso, and one of the youngest heads of state in the world. Traoré climbed the military ladder quickly; after graduating from Georges Namonao Military School, he fought against jihadists in Burkina Faso, and later in 2020 was appointed as a military captain. Prior to his own coup, Traoré was the head of an artillery unit and participated in the January coup, installing Damiba as President. 

His rise to power can be explained by some national factors such as growing security issues – despite his predecessor’s promise to rid the country of terrorist groups. With the conflict on-going for the last seven years, Damiba’s rule represented a turn in the wrong direction as attacks by armed groups increased by 23%. Recently, the situation again escalated at the beginning of September when 16 soldiers were killed and 50 civilians went missing in the Soum province. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many people and the attack was justification for Traoré’s coup. 

As the interim president, Traoré will be able to implement his military measures, such as the civilian initiative, which plans to recruit around 50,000 civilians to help the army fight against jihadist insurgencies. As the new head of state, Traoré is legitimized with the ability to implement these plans. 

What is driving Traoré ?  

Answer: Regaining territory from terrorist groups and diminishing France’s influence in Burkina Faso 

In Burkina Faso, between 2015 and 2021, terrorist attacks orchestrated by the Islamic State and al Qaeda have caused the death of thousands and the displacement of more than 1.5 million Burkinabe. According to Ouagadougou, the government is in control of only 60% of Burkina Faso’s territory, to which Traoré promises to lead with a simple single goal: “the restoration of security and integrity”. He wants to regain the occupied region and free the people who under terrorist blockade have had problems accessing to basic needs. This is the case of the citizens of the region of Djibo which has been occupied for the past 8 months and who have been isolated from humanitarian aid. 

While Traoré argues that the coup was a question of security, the regional bloc, ECOWAS, tweeted that it was opposed to the seizure of power by unconstitutional means in Burkina Faso. To prove that he is only here to remove the dangers to the country’s safety he said that he would uphold Damiba’s promise to ECOWAS and organize elections in 2024, or sooner. Troaré met with an ECOWAS delegation despite an anti-ECOWAS protest which aimed at preventing the meeting from taking place.

Furthermore, regaining control of the country will put an end to terrorist groups raiding gold mines. Gold is an important source of revenue for the government, in 2018 alone it generated 300 million USD in revenue. Ending these raids will put a serious dent into jihadist groups’ finances while replenishing the government’s funds. 

Another driver is to gain the support of the Burkinabe to legitimize Traoré’s coup through popular support. This is something that he needs as he lacks support from a certain number of senior officers as well as the anti-ECOWAS protestors. In order to gain popular support, Traoré went on state television to explain that Damiba had taken refuge at Kamboinsin (a French base) and was planning a counteroffensive, which served to frame Damiba as a French pawn. This is very significant as there is a growing sentiment of frustration toward the French government and their inability to fight against terrorist groups. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Putin is looking to fill a power vacuum left by Macron in the region. 

Despite the popular growing frustration against the French government, the pro-Russian protests taking place in Burkina Faso after the coup, and the fact that he was congratulated by the leader of the Wagner Group, Traoré has announced that he will not hire Wagner Group assistance. Still, he does want to reinforce Burkina Faso’s alliance with Mali. After a meeting between Traoré and Assimi Goïta, the leader of Mali, Traoré has announced that both countries have agreed to act together to fight effectively against terrorism.

Nonethless, the Kremlin does have an interest in increasing security in the country since in April of 2022 it was forced ​​to shut down the activity of one of their companies (Nordgold) due to numerous terrorist raids in their mines.  

Ending the conflict is essential as thousands of people have been killed in Burkina Faso alone. These attacks have also disrupted the economy with the raiding of the gold mines and the slowing down of numerous agricultural activities. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of cultivated land has been lost due to security issues. This has caused the internal displacement of 1.9 million people between 2015 and April of 2022.  All of these civilians are turning toward Russia as a new solution they have been depending on food and water aid.  However, if the Wagner Group were to provide help in the future, it may not have the desired effect.

Indeed, Malian soldiers have also been accused of killing around 300 civilians in the region of Moura last March with the help of foreign fighters. They have also added that there are witnesses who have explained that these foreign fighters were Russian. On the other hand, the Malian army has denied these accusations and explained that they were terrorists. 

Roxane de Bergevin

Research & Analysis Member