Preventing armed conflict in Burkina Faso


Preventive Diplomacy by the African Union and locally led mediation efforts helped to prevent a war in Burkina Faso following a military coup d’état.

In October 2014, the president of Burkina Faso announced his intention to amend the constitution and stand for a third term as president. In response, protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou and stormed the National Assembly amidst violent scenes in which at least one person was killed. The same day, the military staged a coup d’état and subsequently became the target of more demonstrations.1 Although a transitional government including civilians was appointed following widespread international condemnation of the coup and weeks of negotiations mediated by the African Union (AU) Special Envoy (a former Togolese prime minister), bringing a degree of stability and the promise of fresh elections in October 2015, the crisis at the heart of Burkinabe politics was not resolved.2 On 16 September 2015, less than a month before the scheduled elections, the interim president, prime minister, and two other ministers were apprehended by troops of the presidential guard – a powerful, autonomous military force built to protect and serve the ousted authoritarian leader. A panel of eminent personalities (military officers, former presidents, and clergy) attempted to mediate a peaceful resolution with the leaders of the presidential guard to no avail, and the following morning those leaders announced a coup d’état and the formation of a military council to rule the country.3 Ouagadougou once again became the scene of violent protests, and within days the regular armed forces of Burkina Faso were in position around the city, ready to remove the military council from power and dismantle the presidential guard by force if necessary.4

The initial international response to the coup was unforgiving, with the AU immediately calling for the restoration of constitutional rule, suspending Burkina Faso’s membership, and describing the military council as terrorists.5 The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) dispatched a mediation team on 18 September which, after talks with a range of relevant parties, published a 13-point draft agreement which offered amnesty and concessions to the perpetrators of the coup. This proposal was rejected by much of the Burkinabe population (and by ECOWAS in the end), who continued demonstrating against the coup and mobilising in support of the regular armed forces. The effort to prevent war was taken up at this stage by the Mogho Naaba (King of the Mossis), a highly influential Burkinabe traditional leader, who facilitated and mediated negotiations which culminated with the surrender of the military council and presidential guard, averting an armed conflict in Burkina Faso.6

1 Naila Salihu. “Bukrina Faso: An Unforeseen Crisis?” ACCORD Conflict Trends, No. 3. (2015) Available at: (Accessed 9/12/2021)

2 Abdoul Karim Saidou. “’We have chased Blaise, so nobody can resist us’: Civil Society and the politics of ECOWAS intervention in Burkina Faso.” South African Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 25, No. 1. (2018) pp.43-4

3 Ibid. p.48

4 Rakotomalala & Nadia Karoui. “The rise and fall of Burkina Faso's coup: what you need to know.” The Guardian. (24 September 2015) Available at: (Accessed 9/12/2021)

5 Saidou. “’We have chased Blaise, so nobody can resist us’.” p.49

6 Ibid. p.50

Start Year


End Year



Burkina Faso

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Risk of a vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Diplomacy, Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

Local people and organisations, and the African Union




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