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Burkina Faso Is Africa’s Latest Coup Victim

Apparent public support for the military’s move should dampen hopes of a swift democratic transition.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Celebrations after a military coup in Burkina Faso.
Celebrations after a military coup in Burkina Faso.
People gather at Nation Square to celebrate and support the Burkina Faso military in Ouagadougou on Jan. 24. OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A coup in Burkina Faso, the United States mulls Eastern Europe troop deployment, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to deliver annual address.

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Burkina Faso’s Coup

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A coup in Burkina Faso, the United States mulls Eastern Europe troop deployment, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to deliver annual address.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Burkina Faso’s Coup

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kabore was detained and his government dissolved on Monday in a military coup, the latest in a string of recent takeovers including those in Guinea, Chad, Mali, and Sudan.

The coup was announced by military leaders on live television, putting an end to a period of confusion. As late as Sunday night, government authorities claimed they were still in power following an army mutiny and reports of gunfire at several military bases.

That the move has been largely welcomed on the streets speaks to how exasperated the Burkinabe people have become with Kabore’s leadership as the country has endured years of deteriorating security amid a regionwide Islamist insurgency. One million people have been displaced as a result, and 2,000 civilians have been killed over the past year alone.

Public anger last spiked in November 2021 after Islamist militants killed 49 members of the country’s security forces and news emerged that those troops had gone two weeks without food rations.

Ironically, the policies of Kabore, reelected to a second term in 2020 with a pledge to fight back against the insurgency, may have helped embolden coup leaders; The country’s military expenditures have more than doubled under Kabore—from roughly $150 million when he first took office in 2015 to $382 million in 2020—according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

The country has also been an active recipient of U.S. military equipment and training, with a total of $100 million in security aid committed in 2018 and 2019. 

The African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have already condemned the coup, although it remains to be seen whether the country will go the way of Mali, another military-ruled country recently sanctioned by ECOWAS and the European Union over its leader’s decision to postpone elections.

The response outside the country is likely to remain regional for now; as Richard Gowan and Ashish Pradhan explain in an International Crisis Group commentary, the politics of the United Nations Security Council make any wider action to reverse coups difficult.


What We’re Following Today 

Ukraine tensions. The White House is mulling whether to deploy 8,500 additional troops to Eastern Europe as a deterrence measure amid Russia’s military buildup near the borders of Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby made clear that no final decision had been made but rather the troops were being put “on a shorter tether” than usual. 

Meanwhile, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, has played down fears of an imminent Russian invasion, labeling it as Western “panic.” Jeff Hawn, writing in Foreign Policy, appears to share that view, arguing a full-scale invasion is “highly unlikely.”

Iran momentum? Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers an annual address today in Tehran in which he is expected to touch upon issues of domestic and foreign policy. His speech comes as momentum gradually builds in international talks over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal as well as sanctions relief. 

Over the weekend, reports suggested a Russian-brokered interim agreement was possible, with Iran agreeing to limit uranium enrichment activity in return for some sanctions relief. In a sign that Iran may wish to increase the pace of talks, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran “will consider” upgrading to direct talks with U.S. officials if a “good deal with strong guarantees” was close. The U.S. State Department welcomed Amir-Abdollahian’s comments, calling direct talks “urgently needed.”


Keep an Eye On

Boris Johnson’s controversial birthday party. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is once again under pressure following the publication of a news report alleging he hosted a birthday party at No. 10 Downing St. in June 2020 while the rest of the country was under strict lockdown measures. The prime minister’s office has denied that any party took place, describing the event as a brief gathering following a meeting. Loyal Conservative Party ministers have questioned whether the presence of cake and singing necessarily made the gathering a party.

Omicron’s impact. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Europe director, suggested on Monday that the relatively mild impact of the omicron variant “offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization” in the year ahead, while cautioning against complacency. His superior, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was clearer in his assessment. ​​“It’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Tedros said. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”


Odds and Ends

Looking for some Hollywood entertainment with a bit more respect for authority? Consider streaming Tencent Video, the Chinese streaming service suffering ridicule for censoring Hollywood productions and providing alternate endings that upend the original plot.

As Vice reports, Chinese users have mocked Tencent Video’s version of the 1999 David Fincher film Fight Club, which culminates with the anti-hero successfully imploding the headquarters of credit card companies in a bid to unleash anarchy. In the Tencent edit, no such destruction occurs. Instead, the film ends with text imposed on a black screen informing the audience that “the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.” 

One sarcastic Weibo user suggested some more alternate endings for censors to consider: “Probably Ocean’s 11 would have all been arrested. The Godfather’s entire family would end up in jail.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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