Russian loyalties?

Burkina Faso: Does the coup have ‘anti-French’ or ‘pro-Russian’ undertones?

By Damien Glez

Posted on October 5, 2022 09:22

 © By Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

The coup supporters brandished Russian flags, attacked the French embassy, and made their positions known on social media. Was the Captain Ibrahim Traoré-led coup really a battle of influence between Paris and Moscow?

All would be well in the best of times, if one were to believe not only the usual activities along the streets of a jaded capital on 3 October, but also the tempered comments of international organisations, a few hours after the head of state Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba fell. 62 years have passed since Upper Volta gained independence, with 10 presidents, 70% of them military, and none of whom have achieved the ideal martingale of coming to power through the ballot box and leaving at the end of their term.

In the land of political accidents, Ecowas seems to be putting this new situation into perspective, as one illegitimate, not very outrageous, army has just upset another illegitimate, not very outrageous, army, in order to somewhat rectify the trajectory of the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Sauvegarde et la Restauration (MPSR). In March, in Bobo-Dioulasso, the future taunted the grumblers, saying they should initiate “their coup d’état” if they were “really [that] strong”.

Targeted violence

Everyone would have been satisfied with a transfer of power that was almost as phlegmatic as a political rotation of the Swiss Federal Council, had the last few days not been punctuated by some civilian violence. This violence was inflicted on places of French influence, an embassy here, a cultural institute there, and contrasted with the call for calm on the evening of 2 October by mutineers who had become the new strongmen.

So were the mutineers involved in the violence? Not so much. Merely mentioning “new partnerships” or Damiba’s alleged welcome at the French base of Kamboinsin was enough to set off the fire of activists fed on channels like Sputnik and Russia Today, whose best scores for the French-language version were in the Land of the Upright, according to the British news analysis site similarweb.

Another blank page

The final piece of the puzzle are the French critics of the “French dictatorship”, Egountchi Behanzin and Kemi Seba, who surfed on this wave of populism. Furthermore, the Quai d’Orsay’s Burkinabe “vigilance” card was given the red monochrome of “formally inadvisable.”

Would Vladimir Putin know how to situate Faso on the planisphere? Has the strong Burkinabè of the day received the slightest partnership proposal from a private or public Russian entity? On the umpteenth blank page of Burkinabe history, Ibrahim Traoré – who says he is not interested in power – will have to choose the ink with which to write. And there is no time to write multiple drafts, as the captain himself acknowledges: “We must do in three months what would normally take 12 months”. He is familiar with the local proverb: “You don’t step on a blind man’s testicles twice”.

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