Burkina: Junta chief urges putschists to ‘come to their senses’
Burkina Faso junta leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was ousted from his post by a group of soldiers during a televised announcement on Friday night, did not back down and urged the coup leaders to “come to their senses” on Saturday. after another tense day in Ouagadougou.
In this text, published on the presidency’s official Facebook page, the lieutenant colonel urged the coup leaders “to come to their senses in order to avoid a fratricidal war, which Burkina Faso does not need in this context.”
“I formally deny having fled to the French base at Kamboinsin. It’s just a frenzy to manipulate public opinion,” he added, without specifying where he is.
Earlier in the day, coup leaders said on national television that Mr Damiba was planning “a counter-offensive” from a “French base” near Ouagadougou. Paris quickly denied it.
This is the first official communication Mr. Damiba has signed since Friday. He has not appeared in public since the coup.
Earlier in the day, the army issued a statement not recognizing the coup and saying it faced an “internal crisis” and that “consultation” would continue.
“Some units have seized control of certain arteries in the city of Ouagadougou and have requested a farewell statement from Lt. Col. Damiba,” adds the press release, which states that this tension “does not reflect the institution’s position.”
At the end of the afternoon, two French institutions were attacked by protesters: one fire broke out in front of the French embassy in Ouagadougou, an AFP journalist noted, and another in front of the French institute in Bobo-Dioulasso, according to witnesses in this western city country.
In Paris, the Quai d’Orsay reacted immediately, “strongly condemning the violence against our embassy” and adding that “the safety of (his) compatriots” was his “priority”.
These attacks “are the act of hostile protesters who have been manipulated by a disinformation campaign against us,” explained their spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre, while urging “those involved to ensure the security” of the diplomatic buildings.
Quiet had returned to the streets of Ouagadougou by early evening, but late Saturday night several hundred protesters gathered near the Ouagadougou military base in support of the coup leaders, according to an AFP correspondent.
In their Saturday afternoon statement, signed Friday night by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the junta’s self-proclaimed new leader, the coup leaders mentioned their “firm desire to go to other partners willing to help in the fight against terrorism.” .
On Friday, a few hours before the coup, several hundred people demonstrated in the capital to demand Mr Damiba’s departure, but also the end of the French military presence in the Sahel and military cooperation with Russia.
Moscow’s influence has grown in several French-speaking African countries in recent years, and it’s not uncommon to see Russian flags at such demonstrations.
– crisis in the army –
After a quiet night and morning, the situation in Ouagadougou was tense again at midday after gunfire and the deployment of soldiers in the streets.
On Friday night, after a day of shootings in the Presidency District, soldiers intervened on national television to announce they were releasing Mr Damiba.
They had announced the closure of the borders, the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of the government and the Transitional Legislative Assembly. A curfew was also imposed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (local time and GMT).
The junta’s new self-proclaimed leader, Captain Traoré, was previously the corps commander of the Kaya Artillery Regiment in the north of the country, which has been particularly hard hit by jihadist attacks.
According to several security sources, this coup reveals deep divisions within the army, with the elite “Cobras” unit deployed in the fight against jihad, in particular, accusing Mr. Damiba of not having mobilized all the forces on the field.
– International convictions –
The international community condemned this new coup.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres condemned “in the strongest terms” on Saturday “any attempt to seize power by force of arms”.
The African Union (AU) denounced an “unconstitutional change of government” and the European Union (EU) felt that the coup jeopardized “the efforts made for several months” for the transition.
American diplomacy has “urged those responsible to defuse the situation” and said it will “closely monitor the situation.”
As of Friday evening, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had “strongly condemned” an “untimely coup d’état” at a time when progress was being made towards a return to constitutional order, no later than July 1, 2024″.
So far, the new putschists have not indicated whether they intend to comply with this transition plan.
Mr Damiba came to power in January in a coup that ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who had been discredited by the rise in jihadist violence.
But in recent months, numerous attacks on dozens of civilians and soldiers have multiplied in the north and east, where cities are now blocked by jihadists.
Since 2015, repeated attacks by armed movements linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group have killed thousands and displaced some two million people.
With the two coups in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021 and that in Guinea in September 2021, this is the fifth coup in West Africa since 2020.
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