RTB via access point
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Gunfire rang out in Burkina Faso’s capital on Saturday amid signs of lingering tensions a day after a group of military officers toppled the man who seized power in a coup nine months earlier.
Roads remained blocked in Ouagadougou, where a helicopter could be heard hovering overhead. A European Union homeland security analysis seen by The Associated Press said there was “abnormal military movement” in the city.
Amid uncertainty on Saturday, the international community condemned the ousting of Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who overthrew the country’s democratically elected president in January. The African Union and the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS have strongly criticized the developments.
“ECOWAS finds this new power grab inappropriate at a time when progress has been made,” the bloc said, citing Damiba’s recent agreement to return to constitutional order by July 2024.
After taking power, Damiba vowed to end the extremist Islamist violence that has forced 2 million people to flee their homes in Burkina Faso. But a group of officers led by Captain Ibrahim Traore said on Friday that Damiba had failed and was therefore removed as interim president.
The new leadership of the junta declared that it would commit “all the fighting forces to refocus on the issue of security and the restoration of the integrity of our territory”.
But it remains to be seen whether the junta can reverse the crisis. Concerns were already mounting on Saturday, however, that the latest political volatility would further distract the army and allow jihadists to tighten their grip on growing swaths of the once peaceful country.
Earlier this month, Damiba addressed the nation and told the people of Burkina Faso that “our efforts have begun to bear fruit at the military operational level.” Only two days later, a roadside bomb hit a military convoy in the north, killing at least 35 people.
This week, at least 11 soldiers were killed and 50 civilians missing after gunmen attacked a supply convoy in Gaskinde, a commune in the Sahel province of Soum.
“Faced with the ever-deteriorating security situation, we, officers and junior officers of the National Armed Forces, were motivated to act with the desire to protect the security and integrity of our country,” the statement read Friday said. by junta spokesman Capt Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.
“A meeting will be convened to adopt a new transitional constitutional charter and choose a new Burkinabe president, whether civilian or military,” the statement continued.
Friday’s developments sounded all too familiar in West Africa, where a coup in Mali in August 2020 sparked a series of military takeovers in the region. Mali also experienced a second coup nine months after its president was overthrown in August 2020, when the junta leader pushed aside his transitional civilian counterparts and put himself in charge.
Chrysogone Zougmore, president of the Burkinabe Human Rights Movement, called the latest reversal “very regrettable”, saying instability would not help in the fight against extremist Islamist violence.
“How can we hope to unite the people and the army if the latter is characterized by such serious divisions?” said Zugmore. “It is time for these reactionary military and political factions to stop driving Burkina Faso adrift.”