This article is about self-defense movements in Burkina Faso, with an emphasis on the interplay of political pragmatics and cultural representation in public debate. It examines how two different self-defense movements—the dozos and the koglweogos—articulate tradition and politics with respect to locally organized self-defense in present-day Burkina Faso. In addition to a description of these movements, this comparative study of self-defense movements adds the important dimension of political rivalry and antagonism between the movements under study. First, it demonstrates how the state has tried to contain self-defense movements. Second, the emergence of koglweogos is analyzed with respect to public debate, as well as the state’s attempts to contain the movement bureaucratically. Third, it describes how dozos and koglweogos seek to assert public authority in “the new Burkina Faso” that has taken shape since the fall of Blaise Compaoré in October, 2014. More specifically, this article is devoted to the conflictual relationship between the dozos and the koglweogos that was publicly enacted in late 2016 and early 2017. Self-defense movements must not only be locally and traditionally legitimate, but they also need to be responsible actors in the national political space. Hence, “performing tradition, while doing politics” simultaneously represents the political containment and the cultural legitimacy of the self-defense movements.