Did Russia Play a Part in the Burkina Faso Coup?

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Burkina Faso’s second coup took place eight months after the first one, a country in which the official language is French and the population is more than twenty million. The leader of this coup, which took place eight months after the coup by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba in January 2022, is the subordinate commander named Captain Ibrahim Traoré. Just three days before the coup, there was an incident in which eleven soldiers were killed and fifty civilians went missing.[1] Three days after the protests calling for Damiba’s resignation to decrease the number of attacks and break the influence of radical groups operating in Burkina Faso, the group led by Traoré seized power and Damiba was overthrown. Traoré then fled to Togo.

As is known, the government of Burkina Faso is insufficient to resist radical groups which have displaced about a tenth of the population and killed a large number of civilians in the country. As a result of this situation, radical organizations grow stronger and try to widen their area of influence.

Moreover, it cannot be said that the French Army and the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping, which have been operating in the Sahel for almost a decade, have made significant progress against these organizations. Therefore, stability in the region covering Burkina Faso and Mali cannot be achieved, and further, people face difficulties in accessing food. During the Damiba administration, which carried out the coup to solve the preceding problems, attacks increased by 76% compared to the previous year.[2] Taking advantage of this situation, Captain Traoré took over the government with a new coup. Damiba, who resigned two days after the coup on 30 September 2022, fled to Togo. Traoré was then appointed chairman until the president of the transitional government was determined. However, no information was provided on how this process would work.

The citizens, who took to the streets in Burkina Faso’s second coup in 2022, waved Russian flags while chanting slogans supporting the coup.[3] In addition, people furiously chanted anti-France slogans. This indicates that people in Burkina Faso have an anti-France sentiment, as is the situation in Mali.

The public’s hatred against France in Burkina Faso is understandable, considering that nearly three million people have extremely limited access to food and that France has exploited them for years offering nothing in return. There have been ten coups in Burkina Faso since 1960. Almost all of them are thought to be supported by France.

With the last coup d’état, the tide has turned. The display of the Russian flag confirms this as well. Furthermore, people gathering in front of the French Embassy, throwing stones, and trying to set a fire outside the entrance of the embassy have revealed the extent of the hatred against France.

It should be noted that the coup is not only caused by the disapproval of the people, but also by the splits within the army. In the struggle against radical organizations, Damiba’s forces have suffered great failures. Finally, after the attack on 27 September 2022, the army concluded that the insurgent activity had reached an unacceptable level. Moreover, the day before the attack, Damiba promised that the region would be taken under control again, but the following day the attack was launched.

In addition, approximately 40% of the country is controlled by radical organizations. The group led by Traoré was highly concerned by this situation. Speaking after the coup, by promising that the fight against terrorism would continue with partners other than France, Traoré pointed to Russia in a way. In his statement, Kremlin Spokesperson Dimitry Peskov expressed that the order in Burkina Faso should be restored and that the country should return to the framework of legitimacy.

According to two American intelligence officials speaking to the publication named “Foreign Policy” on 27 July 2022, the next stop for the Russian mercenary company Wagner would be Burkina Faso.[4] The emergence of a coup approximately two months after this interview and the use of the Russian flag in the protests raise questions.

Moreover, the fact that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman known for his proximity to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, offered his support to Captain Traoré immediately after the coup, and said that he was a brave and precious son of Burkina Faso, strengthens suspicions of having ties.[5] In addition, in his message published on his social media application called Concord, Prigozhin suggested that the collapse of the French colonial empire has begun by welcoming the new decolonization period. However, an anonymous French senior official stated that there was no evidence that Russia or Wagner was involved in the coup.[6]

Despite the French official’s statements, Mali remains a clear example. Mali cooperated with the Wagner group after the coup. Therefore, Burkina Faso may also strike a deal with Wagner.

The main reason behind why Burkina Faso concerns great powers, namely France and Russia, is that the country has natural resources. The most important of these resources are gold, manganese, zinc, and phosphate. In Burkina Faso, which is one of the African countries with the largest gold reserves, 8% of the revenues of the state and 75% of the exports come from mining.[7] This gives ground for the France-Russia competition in the country.

On 6 October 2022, the Permanent Representative of the United States of America (US) to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield declared:[8]

‘‘One of the most immediate and growing concerns in Africa is the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group’s strategy of exploiting the natural resources of the Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan as well as other countries. ‘These ill-gotten gains are used to fund Moscow’s war machine in Africa, the Middle East, and Ukraine.”.

The allegation made by the Permanent Representative of the US to the UN has not yet been proven. However, through satellite images, it was determined that Wagner forces protected the mines in the countries they operate in. Similarly, on 21 July 2022, French General Laurent Michon’s statement that the Wagner group operates a gold mine in Mali stirred up controversy.[9] The same situation is likely to happen in Burkina Faso.

In conclusion, no proven link to the Wagner group or Russia can be tracked in Burkina Faso’s coup. However, the anti-France sentiments of the Traoré group and the majority of the people indicate that Russia will increase its influence in Burkina Faso shortly.

[1] Nosmot Gbadamosi, “Burkina Faso’s Junta Looks to Russia for Support”, Foreign Policy,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[2] Maria del Pilar Rangel Rojas, “La France sera-t-elle remplacée par la Russie au Burkina Faso?”, Atalayar ,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[3] “Pro-Russia Demonstrators Rally in Burkina After Coup”, France 24,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[4] Jack Detsch, “Burkina Faso Could Be Next for Russia’s Wagner Group, U.S. Intel Fears”, Foreign Policy,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[5] Majdi İsmail, “Burkina Faso: le patron du groupe paramilitaire russe Wagner apporte son soutien au capitaine Traoré”, AA,é/2702663 #, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[6] Elian Peltier, “In Burkina Faso, the Man Who Once Led a Coup Is Ousted by One”, New York Times,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[7] “Burkina Faso : Le Gouvernement Octroie Deux Permis D ‘Exploitation D ‘Or À Des Sociétés Locales”, AgenceEcofin,,des%20revenus%20de%20l’Etat , (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[8] “Russian mercenaries’ exploiting Africa to fund the war in Ukraine’”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

[9] “Mali: le chef de Barkhane accuse le groupe Wagner de se payer en mines d ‘or”,,, (Date of Accession: 14.10.2022).

Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünde lisans eğitimi alan Göktuğ ÇALIŞKAN, aynı süreçte çift ana dal programı kapsamında üniversitenin Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi’nde yer alan Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde de eğitim görmüştür. 2017 yılında lisans mezuniyetini tamamladıktan sonra Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde yüksek lisans programına başlayan Çalışkan, bu programı 2020 yılında başarı ile tamamlamıştır. 2018 yılında ise çift ana dal programı kapsamında eğitim gördüğü Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Millî Eğitim Bakanlığı (MEB) bursu kapsamında 2017 yılı YLSY programını kazanarak halen Fransa’da dil eğitimi alan Göktuğ Çalışkan aynı zamanda Erciyes Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi son sınıf öğrencisidir. YLSY programı kapsamında Fas'ta Uluslararası Rabat Üniversitesinde Yönetişim ve Uluslararası İstihbarat alanında 2. yüksek lisansını yapmakta olan Çalışkan, Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası Ilişkiler bölümünde doktorasına başlamıştır. Iyi derecede İngilizce ve Fransızca bilmektedir.