Chronology of key events leading up to Wednesday's coup in Burkina Faso:
2014: Compaoré flees, political reconstruction begins
October 28th-November 2nd: After months of protests and mobilizations against president Blaise Compaoré’s plans to modify the constitution and run for a new presidential mandate, huge demonstrations take place in Ouagadougou and other cities. Opposition parties and civil society organizations or youth movements such as Collectif Anti-Référendum and Balai Citoyen (“the civic groom”) are at the head of protests. On October 31st, Compaoré – who had been in power for 27 years – finally resigns and flees the country. Isaac Zida, number two of the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (the presidential guard, previously considered to be faithful to Compaoré) acts as de facto head of state. Opposition parties and international partners are initially concerned, but Zida seems to have the support of a part of the demonstrators.
November 2nd-November 19th: The African Union threatens sanctions against Burkina Faso, while ECOWAS (CEDEAO) forms a task force to visit the country and “accompany” the handing over of power to civilians. Intense negotiations with representatives of political parties, civil society and religious authorities start: the institutional form of the announced transitional period is discussed. A draft of the transition chart establishes a 12-months deadline for the organization of next elections; it specifies the role of the president that shall be appointed within few days, must be a civilian and will not be a candidate for the next elections; and it describes the composition of the new legislative body, the CNT (Conseil National de la Transition), that will include representatives from the former opposition parties, the army, the civil society movements and also a few from CDP (Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès), the main party in the former governmental majorityThe presidential functions are attributed to Michel Kafando, former minister of foreign affairs in the early 1980s (before the 1983-87 revolutionary junta and Compaoré’s access to power in 1987) and later ambassador. Kafando appoints Zida as the new prime minister, and negotiations start about the composition of the new governmental cabinet. Several high-rank public officers seen as linked to the previous regime are dismissed.
November 28th: President Kafando announces the dismissal of general Gilbert Diendéré, head of the RSP. He was considered Compaoré’s right-hand man since the times of the revolution in the 1980s. The dismissal appears to happen in peaceful terms, and Diendéré remains in the country.
2014-2015: Growing discontent in the army
December 30th: For the first time, media relate rumors about a revolt, involving RSP officials and soldiers, against their former comrade in arms, now prime minister, Zida. The revolt would be motivated by opposition to the reintegration of the unit in the regular army, discontent over internal nominations, and demands concerning financial bonuses for soldiers. Later reports will confirm that RSP officials initially demanded Zida’s resignation, but tension appears to calm down after negotiations.
January 28th, 2015: The International Crisis Group (ICG) publishes a report about the political transition in Burkina Faso. It approaches the delicate issue of the necessary reforms in the army and the dissolution or reintegration of the RSP (presidential guard).
February 4th-5th: Following other contested nominations in the army, soldiers from RSP demand once again Zida’s resignation. President Kafando mediates and announces the creation of a commission charged of the definition of RSP’s role under the coordination of Diendéré. The commission’s final report has remained secret.
April 7th: The CNT approves a new electoral code meant to exclude “all persons who have supported an anti-constitutional modification that threatens the principles of democratic turnover” from being candidates for the next presidential, legislative and administrative elections. The code also strictly disciplines advertisement, gifts and the use of public goods during electoral campaigns. Compaoré’s former supporters and CDP members protest, while former opposition parties and civil society organizations demonstrate in favor of the new legislation during the following weeks.
June 29th: Despite recent conciliatory declarations by Zida, tension rises again in the RSP. On June 29th, three officials are questioned regarding a supposed attempted action against the prime minister at his return from Taiwan on the previous evening. Gunfire is then heard in the military base of Naba Koom: opposed fronts explain it as a protest against the interrogation or as a put-on organized by pro-Zida elements. RSP representatives accuse Zida of conspiring against them and demand his resignation, while civil society activists blame pro-Compaoré parties for adding fuel to the flames. In the following days, president Kafando leads negotiations to solve the crisis, while Zida denies any intention to resign.
2015: Tensions rise as election approaches
July 13th: The ECOWAS (CEDEAO) Community Court of Justice, to which CDP representatives and opponents of the new electoral code had submitted a plea in April, states that the new regulations are a “violation of the right of free participation to elections”. Supporters of the previous regime claim a victory, while the government promises to modify the electoral code as requested.
July 17th: In a new official speech, president Kafando confirms Isaac Zida as prime minister, but he assumes the functions of minister of defense (previously held by Zida) and announces incoming changes in the government. He scolds elements of the army for “perturbing peace in Burkina Faso”. Some days later, he will announce a reshuffling of the government team, dismissing minister Auguste Barry – considered close to Zida and criticized by RSP – and assuming his functions of internal security.
July 24th-September 10th: Political parties and independent personalities file their applications for the incoming legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for October 11th. After the publication of the provisional lists, many pleas are filed to the Conseil Constitutionnel (constitutional council) both by activists and anti-Compaoré politicians in order to invalidate the application of those who have openly supported the previous regime’s projects of constitutional change. Based on the new electoral code – approved in April and never amended after the statement by ECOWAS Court – the Conseil Constitutionnel accepts some of the pleas and forbids many applicants from running. Tension rises significantly and CDP politicians call for a boycott of the incoming elections.
September 14th: The Commission de Reconciliation Nationale et des Réformes (CRNR, commission for national reconciliation and reforms), a group of experts and recognized personalities formed after Compaoré’s fall to work on the pacification process and the future democratic reforms and presided by catholic bishop Paul Ouédraogo, presents its final report. It recommends investigations about recent and ancient political crimes, the adoption of a new constitution, and the dissolution of the RSP.