Coup in Burkina: renewed tensions in Ouagadougou, international condemnations
Soldiers were deployed in Ouagadougou on Saturday after fresh shootings, a resurgence of tensions after a coup d’état, the second in eight months, reflecting a deep crisis within Burkina’s army, a country undermined by jihadist violence.
Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who himself came to power in a coup in January, was removed from his post by soldiers on Friday night and replaced at the head of the junta by Ibrahim Traoré, a young captain aged 34.
After a quiet night and morning, several witnesses told AFP that after 11am (GMT and local time) they heard gunfire at the United Nations roundabout in the city centre.
Soldiers then resumed their positions, as on Friday, to block the main axes of the city and in particular the Ouaga 2000 district, which notably houses the presidency, and helicopters flew over the city center, according to an AFP journalist.
Merchants, who had reopened their shops on Saturday morning when calm had returned, had closed their shops and were rushing to leave downtown.
Friday night, after a day of shootings in the Presidency district in Ouagadougou, about fifteen soldiers in uniform and some hooded spoke on the set of national radio and television just before 20:00 (GMT and local).
They removed Colonel Damiba – whose fate remained unknown on Saturday – from office and announced the closure of land and air borders, as well as 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.
The soldiers refer to the “continuous deterioration of the security situation” in the country.
The new junta chief, 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, the elite “Cobras” unit deployed in the fight against jihad, and in particular accuses President Damiba of not having mobilized all the forces on the ground.
“These are the same young officers who took part in the maneuvers in the first coup in January. It’s an intramural coup. Damiba was dismissed from his base feeling betrayed. Things need to refocus on fighting the jihadists,” political scientist Drissa Traoré deciphers.
– Condemn the EU and the AU –
On the streets on Saturday morning, several local residents welcomed this new coup quite positively.
“Damiba failed. Ever since he came to power, peaceful areas have been besieged. He took power, then he betrayed us,” said Habibata Rouamba, a trader and civil society activist.
“On the security level, nothing is going well, there are no results. Since Damiba took power, it has only gotten worse,” says Honoré Yonli, an official of an organization of young entrepreneurs.
The international community was much less enthusiastic.
On Friday evening, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose authorities in Burkina have been suspended since the coup in January, “strongly condemned the recent takeover by the troops”.
ECOWAS considers “this new coup de force inappropriate at a time when progress (…) towards a return to constitutional order has been made by 1 July 2024 at the latest”.
So far, the new putschists have not indicated whether they intend to comply with this transition plan.
On Saturday, the head of the African Union (AU) Commission, Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned “the unconstitutional change of government” and also called for a return to constitutional order by July 2024.
For his part, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that this coup “endangers the efforts that have been made for several months” on the issue of transition.
– New partners? –
The presence of Russian flags at a demonstration by several hundred people on Friday afternoon to demand Mr Damiba’s resignation also raised questions about Moscow’s influence in this new coup.
“It is obvious that the Russian partisans are increasing in number. Voices are being raised within the army and the population calling for a partnership with Russia. However, this remains at the theoretical stage. But we don’t have to expect a break with France. “Perhaps more cooperation with other partners like Russia,” says analyst Drissa Traoré.
Colonel Damiba came to power in January in a coup that overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who had been discredited by the increase in violence.
But in recent months, attacks on dozens of civilians and soldiers have multiplied in the north and east, where towns are now blocked by jihadists who are blowing up bridges with dynamite and attacking convoys circulating in the area.
Since 2015, repeated attacks by armed movements linked to jihadists al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, mainly in the north and east of the country, have claimed thousands of lives and displaced around 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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