After military coup: renewed tensions in Burkina Faso
Shots shook the overnight calm in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday. The military then blocked several of the city’s main thoroughfares.
OUAGADOUGOU AFP | After a military coup in West African Burkina Faso, shots shook the overnight peace in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday. Several witnesses told the AFP news agency that they heard shots near a central roundabout in the late morning. The military then again blocked several of the city’s main thoroughfares, AFP reporters reported.
A group of military officers had on Friday deposed the head of the junta, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who had only been in power since January. Captain Ibrahim Traoré was named as the new leader of the military junta. The rebels cited “the continuous deterioration of the security situation” in the country as justification. On Saturday afternoon, the putschists accused Damiba of planning “a counteroffensive” from a French military base.
In the capital, residents welcomed the dismissal of the previous junta boss. “Damiba failed,” said activist and merchant Habibata Rouamba. Since he seized power, previously peaceful areas have been attacked. “He took power and then betrayed us.”
Damiba himself only came to power at the end of January in a coup against elected President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. It made everything worse and brought no safety results, said Honoré Yonli, who heads an organization of young entrepreneurs.
The international community, however, condemned the coup. The President of the African Union (AU), Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Saturday rebuked the “unconstitutional change of government” and, as before, called on the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to return to constitutional order by July 2024.
This date provides for a timetable previously agreed with Ecowas for the transition to the democratic order. So far, the putschists have not commented on whether they intend to stick to the transition timetable.
The EU warned that the coup was undermining transition efforts and called on the military to honor previous agreements. “The European Union regrets the deterioration in security and the humanitarian situation in the country,” said its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Saturday.
The Ecowas states had condemned the seizure of power by the rebellious military “strongly” on Friday. The US State Department in Washington expressed concern about the development. A spokesman for the State Department called for restraint. The French Foreign Ministry recommended that around 4,000 to 5,000 French people in the country not to leave their homes for the time being.
Shots were first heard on Friday at the junta chief’s official residence. In the evening, the rebellious military read a statement on television that Damiba had been relieved of his posts. They imposed a night curfew and closed the country’s borders from midnight. The government and the transitional parliament were dissolved. Nothing was initially known about the whereabouts of the ousted junta chief.
The new ruler, 34-year-old officer Traoré, previously commanded the special unit “Cobra” in the northern region of Kaya, which was deployed there against jihadist militias.
It is the fifth military coup in the region since 2020. In addition to Burkina Faso, Mali was hit twice and Guinea once.
Hundreds of protesters could be seen at Nation Square in Ouagadougou on Friday afternoon, some waving the Russian flag and calling for closer cooperation with Russia. Moscow’s influence has increased in several francophone countries in the region in recent years.