A group of soldiers led by the captain of the Burkina Faso Army Ibrahim Traoré staged a coup this Friday night and overthrew the leader of the military junta that had led the country since January, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba. .
In a message addressed to the nation on RTB state television, the coup plotters have accused Damiba of deviating from the ideal of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR), the name of the junta that took power in the coup committed on 24 September. January.
After a day of confusion marked by a military uprising and gunshots in strategic areas of the capital, Ouagadougou, the new coup plotters, who still claim to belong to the MPSR, have announced several measures such as the suspension of the Constitution and the Transitional Charter. Likewise, the military led by Traoré, the country’s new strong man, have decreed the dissolution of the Government and the Transitional Legislative Assembly and the establishment of a curfew from 9:00 p.m. local time (same GMT) to 5:00 a.m. local time.
They have also ordered the closure of national borders until further notice and the suspension of all political and civil society activity. “The active forces of the nation will be summoned shortly to adopt a new Transition Charter and to designate a new President of [Burkina] Faso, civil or military”, they have indicated. The television appearance of the military came hours after the Burkina Faso Presidency assured that it was holding talks with the military who rose up this morning with the aim of restoring calm in the African country.
This Saturday, hours after the coup, several soldiers have fired warning shots in the center of Ouagadougou, among requests to citizens to leave that area, where several military helicopters were flying low. Confusion has taken over the city: merchants have begun to close their shops in the center of the capital, where some streets were closed again after the barriers placed by the soldiers were lifted this morning.
A soldier told Efe that positions were reinforced in that area as a precaution against a possible deployment of soldiers still loyal to Damiba. The spokesman for the Burkina Faso Executive, Lionel Bilgo, declared yesterday to local television BF1 that “no member of the Government has been arrested”, after some rumors pointed to the possible arrest of Damiba. “This is an internal crisis in the Army and discussions continue within it to find a solution without obstacles,” added Bilgo.
Consulted by Efe, a lieutenant of the General Staff indicated that Damiba “is in a safe place” and that “he is fine”, but refused to answer more questions, arguing that the situation is volatile.
Burkina Faso was in an uncertain situation after the military occupied several strategic areas of Ouagadougou since early this morning. According to local media, behind this movement were disgruntled Special Forces soldiers who are members of the Cobra unit.
According to Efe, the soldiers were present around the national television station (whose signal was cut off), the central roundabout of the United Nations; on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, where the European Union headquarters are located, and in the Ouaga 2000 residential neighborhood.
In the center of the capital, Efe could see citizens applauding the soldiers guarding certain streets, as well as protesters carrying Russian flags (Russian mercenaries help neighboring Mali in the anti-jihadist fight) and calling on the rebellious military to overthrow Damiba.
Detonations were also heard at dawn in the General Baba Sy military camp, where the coup led by Damiba began on January 24, and which later gave way to the sound of sporadic shots. These circumstances took place after a supply convoy escorted by the Burkinabe Army was attacked by terrorists on September 26 near the northern city of Gaskindé.
The official provisional balance was eleven bodies of soldiers found, 28 wounded (20 of them soldiers, a volunteer for the defense of the homeland -civilians who collaborate with the Armed Forces- and 7 civilians) and about fifty missing civilians. Also this Thursday there was a protest in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in the country, in which the demonstrators carried banners that read “Damiba resignation” or “We want peace.”
Condemnation of the African Union and the EU
The president of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has “unequivocally” condemned the coup after hearing the news. In a statement issued from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the leader has expressed his “deep concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Burkina Faso and elsewhere on the African continent.” Mahamat has urged the Burkina Faso Armed Forces to refrain “immediately and completely from any act of violence or threat” to the population, civil liberties and human rights.
The Chadian politician has also urged the Army to “ensure strict compliance with the electoral deadlines for the restoration of constitutional order no later than July 1, 2024.” In the statement, published by the AU on its Twitter social network account, the president reaffirmed the “continued support of the African Union for the people of Burkina Faso to guarantee peace, stability and development in the country”.
The European Union has also joined the condemnation. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has lamented the second military uprising in eight months and has warned that it puts at risk the efforts to supervise the transition in this country.
“The European Union calls for the fulfillment of the commitments made, which formed the basis of the agreement reached with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on July 3, in order to support Burkina Faso towards the return to constitutional order no later than July 1, 2024,” Borrell said in a statement.
For its part, the UN has limited itself to calling for calm and avoiding violence in Burkina Faso, the scene of a coup only eight months after the Army seized power in another military uprising.
“The United Nations calls for calm and to avoid further violence. Burkina Faso needs peace, it needs stability and it needs unity to combat the terrorist groups and criminal networks that operate in parts of the country,” said spokesman Stéphane Dujarric during his daily press conference.
Jihadist violence since 2015
Burkina Faso has suffered frequent jihadist attacks since April 2015, committed by groups linked to both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, whose actions affect ten of the thirteen regions of the country, especially the north. Insecurity has caused the number of internally displaced persons in Burkina Faso to rise to almost two million people.
In November 2021, an attack on a Gendarmerie post caused 53 deaths (49 gendarmes and 4 civilians), which generated great social discontent that led to strong protests demanding the resignation of the Burkinabe president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. A few months later, on January 24, the military led by Damiba seized power in a coup – the fourth in West Africa since August 2020 – and deposed the president.