Coup in Burkina, Russia in Mali and a New Chapter in the Sahel?
On 30 September, a group of young army captains, led by Ibrahim Traoré, seized power in Burkina Faso. They ousted Interim President Paul-Henri Damiba, who himself had come to power in a coup last January. In a televised speech, Traoré blamed Damiba for failing to check terrorism and violence. A few days before the coup, Islamist militants had attacked an army convoy carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged northern city of Djibo. The coup comes at a difficult moment not only for Burkina but also for the Sahel more broadly. Mali has also seen successive coups driven partly by anger at the government’s and its Western partners’ failure to contain rampant insecurity. Mali’s authorities have turned to Russia for help, with forces from the Russian security company, Wagner, which allegedly has close ties to the Kremlin, now reportedly fighting alongside the Malian army. Partly as a result, relations between Bamako and Western capitals, notably France, have tanked. French troops have pulled out of Mali after almost a decade of operations against militants.
In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Sahel Project Director Jean-Hervé Jezequel to discuss what’s happening in Burkina Faso and the rest of the Sahel. They talk about Ibrahim Traoré, the coup leader, and why he seized power. They discuss how militant groups continue to extend their reach and recruit across rural areas of Burkina. They look at the legacy of a decade of French military operations in the region. They also explore Russia’s increasing influence and how governments should navigate the increasing acrimony between Russia and the West and avoid the region becoming a battleground for major powers. They explore what a strategy against Islamist militants that subordinates military operations to politics might look like.
For more on the situation in the Sahel, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Sahel region page.
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