Uniformed soldiers announced on public television on Monday that they had seized power in Burkina Faso and ousted President Marc Roch Christian Kaboré, plunging this Sahelian country into a new crisis, undermined by incessant jihadist attacks.
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The Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR) “which brings together all the components of the defense and security forces has thus decided to put an end to the power of Mr. Marc Roch Christian Kaboré on January 24, 2022”, announced the captain Kader Ouedraogo, surrounded by about fifteen soldiers on television.
As a result of this coup initiated on Sunday by mutinies in the barracks of the country, the land and air borders will be closed from midnight, the government and the National Assembly dissolved and the constitution “suspended”.
A curfew is in place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (local and GMT) throughout the territory, continued Kader Ouedraogo, reading a press release signed by the leader of the MPSR, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, commander of the 3rd region soldier, who appears to be the country’s new strongman.
The MPSR undertook Monday “to propose within a reasonable time (…) a timetable for a return to a constitutional order accepted by all”.
“Decisive turning point”
He “calls on patriots, honest Africans and all friends of Burkina Faso to support and accompany him in this decisive turning point in the history of our country”.
Before the start of the curfew, hundreds of Ouagadougou residents took to the streets of the capital to celebrate this takeover with shouts of joy and whistles.
“It’s a victory, a new start for the people of Burkina Faso with the fall of an incapable regime,” Amado Zoungrana told AFP, perched on a motorbike with the Burkina flag in hand.
“It’s a new page for the Burkinabè army which must go down in history by focusing on the essentials, namely liberating Burkina from the terrorist groups who have mourned us enough,” added Serge Compaoré.
A question remained on Monday evening: where is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who has presided over the country since 2015?
On the former president’s Twitter account, public television RTB published a handwritten letter signed by him in which he indicates “to file his resignation”, “in the best interests of the nation, following the events that took place there. have been taking place” since Sunday.
The soldiers contented themselves with indicating that “the operations took place without bloodshed and without any physical violence on the arrested persons who are being held in a safe place with respect for their dignity”, without mentioning names.
Monday morning, an AFP journalist saw near the residence of the head of state three vehicles riddled with bullets. Traces of blood were visible on one of them.
Shots were heard Sunday evening near the residence of the head of state and a helicopter flew over the area with all lights extinguished, according to residents.
“Throw down the weapons”
On Mr. Kaboré’s Twitter account, a message posted at the beginning of the afternoon, of which it was impossible to know whether it had been written by him directly, or under what circumstances, invited “those who took up arms to submit them in the best interests of the Nation” and called for “dialogue and listening”.
In power since 2015, President Kaboré, re-elected in 2020 on the promise to make the anti-jihadist fight his priority, was increasingly contested by a population exasperated by jihadist violence and its powerlessness to deal with it.
Soldiers mutinied on Sunday in several barracks to demand the departure of army chiefs and “appropriate means” to fight against the jihadists who have struck this country since 2015.
On the international scene, since Sunday this coup has been widely condemned, in particular by the UN, which called on the perpetrators “to lay down their arms” and to protect the “physical integrity” of President Kaboré.
The United States and the European Union have asked for the “immediate release” of Mr. Kaboré, France calling on its nationals to be cautious and to avoid any trip to Burkina.
This putsch comes at a time when the Sahel is increasingly destabilized by jihadists who are also hitting Niger and neighboring Mali, a country which has been the scene of two coups in a few months.
Several angry demonstrations have taken place in recent months in the cities of Burkina – and again until Monday – to denounce the inability of the authorities to counter the jihadist attacks which are multiplying, often prohibited and dispersed by the riot police.
Burkina Faso has been caught since 2015 in a spiral of violence attributed to armed jihadist groups, affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which have killed more than 2,000 people in nearly seven years and forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes.