Soldiers seize power in Burkina Faso
Soldiers in Burkina Faso announced on state television Monday that they have seized power in the West African country after a mutiny over the civilian president’s failure to contain an Islamist insurgency.
A junior official announced the suspension of the constitution, the dissolution of the government and parliament, and the closure of the country’s borders from midnight on Monday, reading a statement signed by Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.
He said the new Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) would restore “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time,” adding that a nightly curfew would be imposed across the country.
Earlier Monday, African and Western powers denounced what they called an “attempted coup” and the EU demanded the “immediate” release of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
The United States also called for Kabore’s release and urged “members of the security forces to respect the constitution and civilian leadership of Burkina Faso.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he “strongly condemns any attempt to seize power from the government by force of arms,” calling the events a “coup d’état.”
Following conflicting reports about Kabore’s whereabouts, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement: “We now know that President Kabore is under the control of the military.”
He called the situation “extremely worrying.”
A government source had said that Kabore was “exfiltrated” from his home on Sunday night by his presidential guard “before the arrival of armed elements who fired on the vehicles of his convoy.”
An AFP correspondent on Monday morning saw three bullet-riddled vehicles outside Kabore’s residence, with traces of blood visible on one.
On Sunday, soldiers rose up at several military bases in Burkina Faso, which has been battling an Islamist insurgency since 2015. They demanded the removal of top military commanders and more resources to fight the insurgents, but made no mention of seeking the removal of Kabore.
The president, in power since 2015 and re-elected in 2020, has faced mounting public anger for failing to stop the bloodshed in the poor, landlocked country.
On Monday, the ruling People’s Movement for Progress party said Kabore was the victim of an “aborted assassination attempt.” A government minister, who was not identified, also survived an attempt on his life and the president’s house was ransacked, it added.
The country “is moving towards a military coup by force every hour,” said the ruling party, adding that the presidential palace had been “surrounded” “by a group of armed and hooded men” and the national radio and television “occupied ”. ”.
Around 10 hooded troops were deployed this Monday in front of the headquarters of the national broadcaster RTB, an AFP journalist said.
The government source said that Kabore had been “exfiltrated” from his home on Sunday night by his presidential guard “before the arrival of armed elements who fired on the vehicles of his convoy.”
Earlier, the ruling party urged “loyal, patriotic and republican security forces to distance themselves from this umpteenth attempt at destabilization (and) support the people, law and democracy of Burkina Faso.”
A message was posted on Kabore’s Twitter account urging “those who have taken up arms to lay them down in the best interest of the nation.” It was impossible to verify if the president wrote the tweet himself or under what circumstances.
“We must resolve our contradictions through dialogue and listening,” added the tweet.
Burkina Faso has seen several coups or attempted coups. In neighboring Mali, where the insurgency began before crossing the border, the military toppled the civilian government in 2020.
On Monday, West African states in the ECOWAS group described the latest volatility as an “attempted coup” and blamed “soldiers for (Kabore’s) physical well-being.”
– New protests –
The African Union said the head of its commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, “strongly condemns the attempted coup against the democratically elected president.”
France, the former colonial power in Burkina Faso, urged its citizens in the country to “avoid any travel” and said two Air France flights scheduled for Monday night had been cancelled.
Shots were heard on Sunday at numerous military bases and near Kabore’s residence in Ouagadougou. Witnesses reported seeing a helicopter flying overhead. Mobile Internet was cut the same day.
Rebel troops presented a list of demands, emphasizing the need for a better strategy and more resources to combat the jihadists, in a voice recording received by AFP.
On Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse banned protests, arresting dozens.
Then on Sunday, protesters set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters. New protests were organized on Monday.
The camp where Kabore was allegedly held also houses a military prison where General Gilbert Diendere, a former right-hand man of ousted President Blaise Compaore, is serving a 20-year sentence for a 2015 coup attempt.
The insurgency, which has swept from Mali, has overwhelmed Burkina Faso’s ill-trained and ill-equipped armed forces.
Around 2,000 people have died, according to an AFP tally, while around 1.5 million people are internally displaced, according to the national emergency agency CONASUR.
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ROYAL NEWS eCopy March 28, 2022
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