Burkina Faso: Military coup is a blow to stability and threatens human rights

New military leader Ibrahim Traore escorted by soldiers, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 2 October 2022. Photo: Vincent Bado/Reuters

Burkina Faso’s second military takeover in less than a year has sparked fears of rising violations against the right to freedom of expression and other human rights in an already-tense environment due to the conflict between Islamist armed groups and the Army. At a time when the future of democracy in the country appears to be increasingly uncertain, ARTICLE 19 calls on all actors, including the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to help Burkina Faso regain its stability by encouraging respect for international human rights standards and the protection for individual and collective rights. 

On Friday, 30 September, heavy gunfire rang out in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Heavily-armed soldiers stormed official buildings, taking control of strategic areas, and the signal for state television was disrupted. A group of soldiers were able to broadcast the announcement that former junta leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba had been dismissed by military officials. After initially refusing to relinquish power, Damiba tendered his resignation on Sunday, 2 October, making way for Captain Ibrahim Traoré’s succession as the new leader of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR) and president of the country.  

“Military rule is not a sustainable solution to ensure the basic needs and rights of people in Burkina Faso – among other things, safety and an acceptable standard of living, including adequate food. Immediate solutions must be found to the surge of military ruling in the West Africa region. The new military ruling should make sure that fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, are upheld, and respect the engagement with the ECOWAS for a return to civilian rule within two years,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Senior Director of Programmes of ARTICLE 19.


Damiba came to power in a coup at the end of January 2022, also prompting the formation of the MPSR, which Damiba headed prior to his ousting. During its time running the country over the last eight months, the MPSR has faced criticism from both citizens and civil society organisations for its failure to honour the promises it had made to the people of Burkina Faso, including relative stability and enjoyment of democratic freedoms. Prior to the events of the last few days, Traoré, 34, was head of the anti-jihadist special forces unit Cobra.

With the two coups in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021 and one in Guinea in September 2021, this is the fifth coup in West Africa since 2020.

The mood in the capital continues to be tense. Demonstrators attacked the French embassy over the weekend, prompting newly-installed, self-proclaimed leader Captain Ibrahim Traoré to call for an end to the violence. 

The United Nations, African Union (AU) and the European Union all denounced the armed takeover, stating that the coup ‘undermines the efforts undertaken for several months’.

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and fair elections through universal suffrage are among the essential elements of democracy. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further expanded in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Burkina Faso should, in line with these international obligations, uphold these fundamental values. 

For more information, please contact:

Maateuw Mbaye, Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa Email: maateuwmbaye@article19.org  T: +221785958337

Aissata Diallo Dieng, Office Manager, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa Email: senegal@article19.org  T:+221338690322

Burkina Faso is ranked 76 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report, ARTICLE 19’s  annual review of the state of freedom of expression and the right to information around the world.