In Burkina Faso, tension persists in the aftermath of the coup

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In Burkina Faso, tension persists in the aftermath of the coup d'etat

Only eight months after the coup by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, in At the end of January, Burkina Faso finds itself further plunged into a long-lasting political and social crisis, the army having once again overthrown power on Friday.

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Several main arteries in the capital, Ouagadougou, were blocked by soldiers, shortly after a burst of gunfire heard in the city center.

The calm that had returned to the streets on Saturday morning of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, was short-lived. At noon, several major axes of the capital were blocked by soldiers, shortly after a burst of gunfire heard in the city center.

This renewed tension comes the day after a coup d'etat during which soldiers removed from his functions the head of the junta, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba. He himself had come to power in a putsch at the end of January. His fate was still unknown on Saturday.

Mr. Sandaogo Damiba was replaced as head of the junta by Ibrahima Traoré, a 34-year-old captain.

Several witnesses reported hearing a burst of gunfire around the United Nations roundabout in the city center late in the morning. Soldiers then, like Friday, resumed their positions to block the main axes of the city and in particular the district of Ouaga 2000, which houses among other things the presidency.

Helicopters also flew over the city center at midday.

Traders who had reopened their stores on Saturday morning when calm had returned closed their shops and hurried to leave the downtown.

Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba did not last a year at the head of Burkina Faso.

At the end of the afternoon, two French institutions were targeted by demonstrators: a fire broke out in front of the French embassy in Ouagadougou, noted an AFP journalist and another in front of the French Institute in Bobo-Dioulasso, according to witnesses in this city in the west of the country.

We condemn the violence against our embassy with the greatest firmness, spokeswoman for the Quai d'Orsay Anne-Claire Legendre told AFP.

“A crisis cell is open in Ouagadougou and our teams are mobilized (…) for the safety of our compatriots, which is our priority. »

— Anne-Claire Legendre, spokesperson for the Quai d'Orsay

Friday evening, after a day marked by shootings in the district of the presidency in Ouagadougou, about fifteen soldiers in fatigues and for some hooded, including the country's new strongman, Ibrahima Traoré, had burst onto the national radio and television set.

Surrounded by his men, Captain Ibrahim Traoré announced the ouster from power of Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the closure of land and air borders, the suspension of the Constitution, the dissolution of the government and of the government. Legislative Assembly as well as the establishment of a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Ibrahima Traoré, the new leader of the Burkinabe junta.

In his speech, he referred to the continued deterioration of the security situation in the country.

Saturday afternoon, the new head of the junta accused his predecessor of wanting to launch a counter -offensive from a French base near Ouagadougou.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba is said to have taken refuge in the French base at Kamboinsin, in order to plan a counter-offensive in order to sow disorder within our defense and security forces.

— Ibrahim Traoré, the country's new strongman

France did not react directly to these accusations, but an hour earlier, its embassy in Burkina Faso had firmly denied any involvement of the French army in the events of the last few hours.

Rumors that Burkinabe authorities have been welcomed or are under the protection of French soldiers are unfounded, the French diplomatic institution said in a statement on Saturday.

France is present in Burkina Faso with Saber, a contingent of special forces established in Kamboinsin, about thirty kilometers from the capital.

According to the putschists, the junction between Mr. Damiba and France would follow up on their strong will to reach out to other partners ready to help in the fight against terrorism.

No country is explicitly mentioned, but it could be Russia, whose influence has been growing in several French-speaking African countries in recent years. It is not uncommon to see Russian flags in such demonstrations.

Friday, a few hours before the coup, several hundred people had demonstrated in the capital to demand the departure of Mr. Damiba, but also the end of the French military presence in the Sahel and military cooperation with Russia.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres strongly condemned in a statement on Saturday any attempt to seize power by force of arms in Burkina Faso.

Mr. Gutteres calls on all actors to refrain from violence and seek dialogue.

For his part, the President of the Commission of the African Union (AU), the Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, also condemned on Saturday the unconstitutional change of government in Burkina Faso after the military coup which ousted Lieutenant- Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

“The President calls on the military to immediately and completely refrain from any act of violence or threats to populations, public freedoms, human rights. »

— Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the African Union

The President of the AU Commission finally calls for strict respect for the electoral deadlines for a return to constitutional order no later than July 1, 2024.

The European Union (EU), partner of Burkina Faso, also denounced Saturday this second coup of the year in the country. The coup jeopardizes the efforts undertaken for several months, in particular on the part of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to oversee the transition, said the chief of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, in a statement.

The European Union calls for the respect of the commitments made, which were the basis of the agreement found with ECOWAS on July 3 in order to support Burkina Faso towards a return to constitutional order no later than July 1, 2024, he insisted.

The army is deployed in the streets of Ouagadougou.

We urge officials to de-escalate the situation, prevent harm to citizens and soldiers, and return to constitutional order, the spokesperson said. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, stating that the United States was monitoring the situation closely.

Burkina Faso, one of the poor countries of the Sahel, not only has to deal with economic difficulties, but also with deadly jihadist attacks in the North and East, where cities are now subject to a blockade by jihadists, who blow up bridges with dynamite. Two supply convoys were attacked in September, each time resulting in a heavy toll.

Since 2015, recurrent attacks by armed movements affiliated with the jihadists of Al- Qaeda and the armed group Islamic State, mainly in the north and east of the country, have claimed thousands of lives and caused the displacement of some two million people.

With the two putsches 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.

With information from Agence France-Presse

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