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PoliticsBurkina Faso

Army revolt ousts Burkina Faso junta leader

September 30, 2022

A group of soldiers have announced on state TV that President Paul-Henri Damiba has been removed from office. The apparent mutiny follows a January military coup that has left the West African nation in turmoil.

Kiswensida Farouk Aziz Sorgho announces on television that army captain Ibrahim Traore has ousted Burkina Faso's military leader Paul-Henri Damiba and dissolved the government and constitution
Soldiers took over state TV and announced dissolving the government and constitutionImage: RADIO TELEVISION BURKINA FASO/REUTERS

Burkina Faso soldiers announce government overthrow

A group of Burkina Faso army soldiers announced late Friday that they ousted junta leader Paul-Henri Damiba, who had himself come to power through a military coup

The soldiers introduced Captain Ibrahim Traore as the West African nation's new strongman. 

"We have decided to take our responsibilities, driven by a single ideal — the restoration of security and integrity of our territory," the soldiers said. 

"Our common ideal was betrayed by our leader in whom we had placed all our trust. Far from liberating the occupied territories, the once peaceful areas have come under terrorist control."

Traore said Burkina Faso's government and constitution had been dissolved.

 A curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. was imposed.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the political and economic union of fifteen countries in the region, condemned the coup on Friday.

The regional bloc said the coup came at an inopportune time since Burkina Faso was making progress towards returning to constitutional rule following the coup in January.

Journalist Henry Wilkins, speaking to DW from the capital, Ougadougou, said Traore was an obscure figure about whom little was known.

He said little was known, too, about the whereabouts of Damiba and that there was a lot of misinformation and rumors online.

The main driver of the coup, according to Wilkins, is a sense of insecurity in the country amid an Islamist insurgency that Damiba has failed to suppress despite promises to do so. He said the government now controlled just 60% of the country and that there were almost daily attacks.

Paul-Henri Damiba in Djibo
The leader of Burkina Faso's military junta, Paul-Henri Damiba, gave a speech a day before the shooting in OuagadougouImage: BURKINA FASO PRESIDENCY/REUTERS

How did the latest coup unfold?

The statement came hours after heavy gunfire was heard around Ouagadougou, sparking fears of a mutiny by members of the military.

Shots and a large blast were also heard around the presidential palace and the headquarters of its military junta earlier Friday. 

Hours before, Damiba had accused certain army units of creating a "confused situation."

A statement on the presidency's Facebook page added that discussions were ongoing to restore calm. Those discussions appear to have failed.

The AFP news agency cited government spokesman Lionel Bilgo as saying that the presence of soldiers on major roads was linked to an "internal crisis in the army."

Earlier Friday, state TV halted transmissions.

"It could be a coup d'etat ... or unrest within the army. It could also be that none of this works, that the current military government remains in power," Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel Regional Program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) in neighboring Mali, told DW.

"Burkina Faso is in an even deeper crisis than many thought. Outside of the country's capital and second city, Bobo Dioulasso, the [security] situation is actually almost out of control," he added.

The African Union on Saturday condemned the "unconstitutional change of government" in Burkina Faso.

"The chairperson calls upon the military to immediately and totally refrain from any acts of violence or threats to the civilian population, civil liberties, human rights," the AU said in a statement, calling for the restoration of the constitutional order by July 2024.

Burkina Faso soldiers are seen deployed in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2022
On Friday, shots were heard in the neighborhood of the capital, Ouagadougou, that houses both the presidential and military junta headquartersImage: Olympia De Maismont/AFP

DW gets reaction on the street

DW correspondent Charles Bako, in Ouagadougou, spoke to several residents about the coup rumors before it was confirmed.

"There was a great deal of noise early this morning and talk of a coup was everywhere. But all we want is peace here in the country," one man told him.

Another said that the January putsch had not improved the security situation in the country.

"We hope it doesn't end in a bloodbath. Maybe he [Damiba] will quietly retire and hand over power to someone else. And I hope that the new ruler will really be a patriot," he told DW.

A third resident said he hoped "peace will return to Burkina Faso. At least that is my wish.”

What was the political situation in Burkina Faso?

Friday's apparent coup comes eight months after the military junta seized power on January 24, overthrew President Roch Kabore, and dissolved the government.

At the time, Paul-Henri Damiba vowed to restore security after years of violence perpetrated by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State (IS) armed group. But attacks persist and the army is in disarray.

Last week, Damiba traveled to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly as the country's coup leader-turned-president.

Thousands flee violence in Burkina Faso

Years of violence

Thousands have been killed and about two million people have been displaced by fighting since 2015, when the insurgency spread to Burkina Faso.

More than 40% of the country, a former French colony, is currently outside government control.

Millions have fled their homes in fear of more raids by gunmen, who often descend on rural communities on motorcycles, killing anyone they see.

The West African country, one of the world's poorest, has become the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 but has since spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert.

mm, dh/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)