In Burkina Faso, military officers have taken control of the government
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
In the West African country of Burkina Faso, a group of military officers has taken control of the government from another group of military officers who took control of the government just eight months ago. Rachel Chason is the West Africa bureau chief of The Washington Post. She told our co-host Rachel Martin that this was a coup within a coup.
RACHEL CHASON: In January, the military seized power from the democratically elected president because they said they wanted to get the country back on track in terms of its security situation. And then on Friday, a different faction of the military seized power again. And now we have a new leader in Ouagadougou who is again saying that his priority is going to be improving the security situation in Burkina Faso.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
So let's back up. Why is the security situation so bad as to have triggered this initial coup back in January?
CHASON: Yeah. So last year, Burkina Faso became the epicenter of the jihadist threat in West Africa. And so there have been a number of attacks in the past couple of years. And what we have even in the past couple of weeks were a series of attacks that really angered residents and the military.
MARTIN: So in your reporting, you said that some of the people participating in the coup showed up to demonstrations carrying Russian flags. Explain what that's about.
CHASON: Yes. That's been a really interesting sort of factor. Both in January and now, at protests in support of the coup, there have been a number of protesters who waved Russian flags, who said that they wanted to see more involvement from Russian forces. It's not clear to what extent, if any, Russia was behind this coup. But the founder of the Wagner Group did say he welcomed it. The Wagner Group is a group of Russian mercenaries that have sort of increasingly gained a foothold in West and Central Africa. And I think that there's just a real hunger in Burkina Faso to see something that works. And for a lot of protesters that are on the streets, what they're saying, what they're telling us is that they think that that help could come from Russia.
MARTIN: So what does all of this mean for the average citizen of Burkina Faso? What is life like amidst all this political chaos?
CHASON: You know, I think that what we kept hearing was that people are just so hungry to see any sort of semblance of peace and of the country that they once knew. One 40-year-old woman told us that it felt like an eternal restart in Burkina Faso, with the new governments promising change and then not delivering. A vendor told us that all he wants to see is peace. He doesn't even care if he likes the president in power. What he wants to see is them bring real security to the country, which once was an incredibly peaceful place.
MARTIN: What are the odds that this new government can actually stem the violence, can actually prevent the Islamist groups from waging attacks?
CHASON: I think that a lot remains to be seen about this new government and sort of what their strategy is going to be and what they're actually going to do. One thing that they have said is that they really want to turn to different international partners. That sort of raised speculation about the extent to which they're talking about Russia. But I think that it's not clear yet who they really mean and what sort of their new strategy is going to be.
MARTIN: Rachel Chason is the West Africa bureau chief for The Washington Post. Thank you so much for your reporting on this. We appreciate it.
CHASON: Thank you very much.
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