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ConflictsBurkina Faso

Burkina Faso coup leader says 'counteroffensive' contained

October 1, 2022

The leader of Friday’s coup has accused the military man he deposed of plotting a counter-offensive with French aid. Violence has persisted in the capital with gunshots heard.

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, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 30, 2022.
Burkina Faso's self-imposed leader has warned his deposed predecessor is plotting a counter attackImage: RADIO TELEVISION BURKINA FASO/REUTERS

Burkina Faso's new self-declared leader Ibrahim Traore has accused the president he deposed in a military coup on Friday of plotting a counterattack, blaming him for the violence which continued on Saturday.

Traore said that ousted President Paul-Henri Damiba was responsible for the gunfire reported earlier in the day in the capital Ouagadougou. He added that Damiba has taken refuge at a French base.

"We have managed to calm the situation," Traore said.

The French Foreign Ministry denied the Burkinabe coup leader’s claims of any French involvement.

Traore's statements came in the midst of an outpouring of condemnation for the military coup, the second to take place in the West African state this year. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged "all actors to refrain from violence and seek dialogue."

A man waves a Burkina Faso flag as others demonstrate while Burkina Faso soldiers are seen deployed in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2022.
This is Burkina Fasu's second military coup in the span of eight monthsImage: Olympia de Maismont/AFP

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 last January.

The soldiers introduced Captain Traore as the West African nation's new strongman. They blamed Damiba for failing to put an end to the Islamist insurgency the country has been witnessing.

Damiba's whereabouts were unknown following the military takeover.

What is happening today?

On Saturday afternoon there were still signs of violence in the capital Ouagadougou, despite a relative calm in the early hours of the day.

Gunshots in the city center were reported. Security forces drove around in a convoy, while helicopters hovered above. Military troops blocked some of the city's main roads, including the vicinity of the presidential palace.

The AFP news agency said that shops were soon to shut their doors after initially opening for business in the morning.

The French embassy advised its citizens to limit their movements, saying that "the situation remains tense in Ouagadougou." French nationals in the country are believed to range between 4,000 and 5,000.

Regional, international condemnation of latest coup

Several international organizations in the African continent and beyond were wary of this second coup's impact on the country's already glacial return toward a constitutional government. 

The UN Secretary General's statement said that "Burkina Faso needs peace, stability and unity to fight terrorist groups and criminal networks operating in parts of the country." 

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell deplored in a statement "the degradation of the security and humanitarian situation in the country."

The African Union called for an immediate and total abstention of acts of violence or threats to civilians, civil liberties or human rights. The AU statement also urged for free and fair elections to be held by July 2024, as per the initial plan set out by the deposed Damiba.

Burkina Faso soldiers announce government overthrow

AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat described the coup as an "unconstitutional change of government." The union had already suspended Burkina Faso after the January coup.

The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the political and economic union of fifteen countries in the region, echoed similar sentiments.

Equally keen to reestablish democratic governance, it said it found "this new power grab inappropriate at a time when progress has been made."

The United States called on all actors involved to return to "calm and restraint."

What was the political situation in Burkina Faso?

Friday's coup came eight months after the military junta seized power on January 24, overthrowing President Roch Kabore, and dissolving the government.

At the time, Damiba vowed to restore security, blaming the civilian government rather than his own military for years of violence perpetrated by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State (IS) armed group. But attacks have persisted, and the army remained in disarray having seized power.

More than 40% of the country is thought to be currently outside government control.

rmt/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)