Burkina Faso History

Burkina Faso History – 1980-1982


Foreign participation

It is often said that the firing squad and those behind them were commissioned by the French or American secret service. Even if there are many indications of an international conspiracy and the coup served the interests of the named foreign powers and their allies, such participation – as well as the complicity of French President François Mitterrand, who was snubbed by Sankara – has not yet been fully proven. An important clue came in 2008 from the Liberian warlord Prince Johnson. He testified before the Truth Commission in Monrovia that he himself was with Liberian mercenaries on October 15, 1987was ordered by Charles Taylor to the firing squad of a Burkinabe unit to kill Sankara. Charles Taylor was staying in Ouagadougou at this time and asked Sankara for weapons and mercenaries for his civil war in Liberia and the overthrow of the President Samuel Doe there. Sankara refused. Blaise Compaoré, on the other hand, supported Charles Taylors and a few weeks later provided him with massive equipment for his bloody project. Charles Taylor had been sent to West Africa from an American prison by the CIA to protect US interests in the region. Since 2007 Charles Taylor has been responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes before a special court near The Hague and was found guilty there in 2012.

1982-1983: Conseil de Salut du Peuple (CSP)

A politically rather heterogeneous group of military men under the name “Mouvement du Salut du Peuple”, led by Lieutenant Kamboule, chief of the tank regiment, came to power on November 7, 1982. The President Colonel Zerbo was accused of treason, waste, corruption, reprisals and violation of civil liberties. The coup plotters, who first had to appoint a new president, were split into a right camp around Colonel Gabriel Yoryan Somé and Major Fidèle Guebre and a left camp expecting Thomas Sankara to take over the office of president. But he refused. The young officers were only able to prevent the election of one of the two conservative candidates by offering medical major Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo as a compromise. The pediatrician who had just received his doctorate was thus considered a President candidate for embarrassment. Ouédraogo tended more and more to the conservative camp, while the left-wing faction was able to assert Thomas Sankara as prime minister. The result was a two-headed government. Ouédraogo only wanted to be a pediatrician and wanted to return power to a civilian government as quickly as possible. Sankara saw in this only the reinstatement of an old bourgeois ruling class, which the junior officers had to fight against. In his opinion, corruption first had to be eliminated and the people literate, and every citizen to become a “citoyen éclairé”. Formal democracy had to be scaled back in order to lay the foundations of actual democracy. Two camps faced each other implacably.Military strike was arrested. This sparked violent protests because of Sankara’s great popularity, especially among young people. His close friend and companion Blaise Compaoré fled to the Pô garrison near the border with Ghana. Even through rehabilitation, transfer and the prospect of a new constitution, Ouédraogo could no longer smooth the waves. Since Colonel Zerbo was also reorganizing his old loyalists, three groups within the army faced each other at the beginning of August 1983 and were determined to solve the crisis militarily. Blaise Compaoré was the first to react and organized the “March on Ouagadougou” from Pô on August 4th, 1983.

The “Conseil National de la Révolution” (CNR) was formed.

1980-1982: Comité Militaire de Redressement pour le Progrès National (CMRPN)

According to constructmaterials, Colonel Saye Zerbo took over the head of the CMRPN (in German: “Military Restructuring Committee for National Progress”). His attempt to modernize and moralize public life initially met with euphoric approval. Zerbo began to fight corruption and laxity among civil servants. The use of state vehicles was regulated and the highest salaries cut. His approach was later referred to as “pre-revolutionary”.

The mood changed when bars closed during working hours, as “la bièrre voltaïque” at 10:00 had become a tradition among officials. Clumsiness and tactical mistakes followed. The regime’s popularity dulled further when the right to strike was restricted and emigration was restricted by requiring exit visas. Zerbo believed that in order to take the necessary measures, the country would have to be sealed off from the outside world. The country quickly fell back into an old battle of strength between reprisals by the military and striking civilians.

There was a generational conflict within the army between veterans like Lamizana, colonels trained in more modern military schools like Zerbo and a third generation of young politicized captains who sharply criticized the government for being “lax” and “bourgeois”. In order to involve these “young savages” in government affairs, Zerbo appointed Captain Thomas Sankara State Secretary for Information Policy. His sensational radio address on his resignation five months later (“Shame on those who gag the people!”) Made Sankara enormously popular and welded the young military close together. In addition to reprisals by the government, Sankara particularly criticized the fact that the chosen form of political formation could only serve a minority.

Burkina Faso History