Burkina Faso suffered another coup d'état on 24 January, the seventh since it gained independence from France in 1958. The history of the young African nation has been shaped by this phenomenon, which has seen two successful coups so far this century. The first, in 2014, ended the long-ruling dictatorship of Blaise Compaoré; the second, just a few weeks ago, deposed the democratically elected president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.
His government's inability to cope with the growing jihadist threat prompted the Burkinabe army's top brass to mutiny in a slow-motion coup, which erupted a few days after the rumours were unleashed. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Damiba, the soldiers arrested Kaboré at the presidential palace and forced his resignation. Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, thus joined countries such as Guinea, Mali and Sudan in a military-led transitional process.
As soon as the change of regime was made official, the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, and other parts of the country were filled with cheering demonstrators celebrating the army's action. At last", many Burkinabe people thought, "a strong government that can free us from the terrorist threat". Away from the military environment, Kaboré was reluctant to fight jihadist groups in the north of the country, whose factional presence has already displaced at least 1.5 million people.
Islamist violence in the Sahel has been affecting countries in the region for years. After the coup, Russian flags could be seen in the avenues and chants of "No to France" could be heard. The majority of the Burkinabe people are calling for a change of security alliances. Paris' military withdrawal, which reduced the size of Operation Barkhane, and its ineffectiveness in maintaining security, have pushed Ouagadougou towards Moscow's orbit and the presence of the Wagner Group, which they consider more reliable.
The military leaders made their star appearance hours later on state television, where they sent a message of reassurance to the population: "We dissolve the government and suspend the constitution". Paul Henri Damiba, the commander of one of the country's three regions, trained in military academies in France and the United States, took the reins of the country at the head of the Patriotic Movement for Salvation and Restoration (MPSR).
Since then, Damiba has been acting head of state, a position he will hold for at least the next three years. Weeks after partially reactivating the Magna Carta and taking office as president with the approval of the Constitutional Court, the lieutenant general signed a Transitional Charter. A document that officially stated the establishment of a transitional process.
The decree guaranteed the extension of this period until 2025, the creation of a parliament composed of 71 deputies and, ultimately, the formation of an interim government composed of 25 ministers, i.e. with 25 ministerial portfolios. At the end of this period, the Burkinabe people will be called to a presidential election in which, according to the document itself, neither the speaker of parliament, nor the prime minister, nor the president himself will be able to stand. Damiba would be 'a priori' ruled out.
Before revealing the cabinet profiles, Damiba named 52-year-old economist Albert Ouédraogo as the new head of government. With a military background and specialising in business development and management, the new prime minister has been charged with putting together the pieces of an executive that will have to face the multiple challenges and threats facing the country over the next three years. An executive called upon to get a country out of a quagmire where more than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line and which faces the latent Islamist threat.
Three days after the lieutenant general's formal request for the appointment of cabinet members, Ouédraogo revealed the names of the 25 ministers who will make up the new government in office, 22 of whom are civilians - including six women - and three military personnel. The Defence Minister, General Aimé Barthélémy Simpore, who already held the post during the presidency of the deposed Kaboré, stands out. A cast that received Damiba's approval.