Education International
Education International

Burkina Faso: teachers' unions and civil society decisive in ending of the coup

published 29 September 2015 updated 1 October 2015

Together with union federations and other independent unions from Burkina Faso gathered within the Union Action Unit, Education International’s member unions strongly acted to end the recent coup that took place in the country.

Within the Union Action Unit (UAS - Unité d’action syndicale), the Syndicat national des enseignants africains du Burkina (SNEAB) and the Syndicat national des enseignants du secondaire et du supérieur, both of which are Education International affiliates, played a very active role in fighting back the coup that shook Burkina Faso.

Transitional President Michel Kafando, his Prime Minister Isaac Zida and certain ministers had been taken hostage by the soldiers of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RPS), an elite unit of about 1,300 soldiers tasked with ensuring the President's security, headed by General Gilbert Diendéré. The latter, the former Chief of personal staff of former President Blaise Compaoré, subsequently proclaimed himself head of state. The coup ended on 23 September 2015, following Mr. Kafando's speech to the nation announcing the end of the coup and the fact that he would be once again taking up his position as President.

From the beginning, teachers went on strike, condemning the act of taking the arrested government members hostage and calling for their immediate and unconditional release. They also called “the Burkinabé people to tap into their long traditions of organisation, resistance and struggle to defeat the military coup” and “activists of all of its unions to mobilise and resist until the military junta that staged the coup surrenders”.

Call for the dissolution of the RPS

“We were determined not to resume teaching in schools until the RPS had been officially disbanded by decree,” explained Séma Blegne, the national General Secretary of the SNEAB.

Blegne made a clear statement as regards the matter of impunity: it is unthinkable that people who took up arms against the people be able to get away without being faced with charges, and politicians must enable the courts to hand down “a sentence to serve as an example so that no soldiers will be tempted to carry out a coup”.

17 people died and 120 were injured, “they cannot be written off!” he said.

He also noted that the coup took place when teachers were returning to work, and not when students were returning to school, which they are scheduled to do on 1 October. No teaching establishments or teachers were affected.

Unions and civil society strongly united in defence of Burkina Faso

“We are fortunate to have a strong civil society. Even if the labour movement is fragmented, it can be very united as a nation in case of emergency,” Blegne stated.

He believes that the Burkinabé people's victory came from the provinces, rather than the capital of Ouagadougou, where resistance aimed at stalling the advance of the coup's supporters was concentrated in the suburbs.

Coordinating bodies composed of trade unions, political parties and the civil society were set up in each region because “we were in a war situation”, he stated, adding that army officials had to take responsibility due to the significant mobilisation in the regions.

New elections scheduled

Blegne also indicated that his union aims to ensure that the elections scheduled to take place in November will be held in a transparent and democratic way.