In Ouagadougou, protesters demanded the departure of junta leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaugo Damiba.
Ouagadougou (AFP) – Military officers have seized control of Burkina Faso, claiming they are restoring peace to the country destroyed by jihadists when they ousted the junta leader who came to power in a coup earlier this year.
In the capital, Ouagadougou, pre-dawn gunfire was heard around the presidential palace at the start of a day that culminated in the latest ouster.
Just before 8 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Friday, more than a dozen soldiers in uniform appeared on state television and radio to announce the dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henry Sandaugo Damiba for failing to stamp out the jihadist insurgency.
They announced that Captain Ibrahim Traore, 34, is in charge.
“We have decided to assume our responsibilities, driven by one ideal: to restore security and the integrity of our territory,” they said.
With much of the Sahel fighting a growing Islamist insurgency, the violence has led to a series of coups in Mali, Guinea and Chad since 2020.
In January, Damiba declared himself leader of the country of 16 million people after President-elect Roch Marc accused Christian Kabore of failing to defeat the jihadists.
But with more than 40 percent of the former French colony outside government control, leaders of the latest coup said Damiba, too, had failed.
Damiba came to power in a coup in January after the ousting of Burkina Faso’s elected president
“Far from liberating the occupied territories, the areas that were once peaceful are now under the control of terrorists,” the new military leaders said.
Then they suspended the constitution, closed borders, dissolved the transitional government and the Legislative Council, and imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm until 5:00 am.
The new strongman Traore was the head of the anti-jihadist special forces unit “Cobra” in the northern region of Kaya.
Damiba’s fate remained unknown on Friday.
– Calls for ‘restraint’ –
The National Movement for Protection and Restoration led by Dameba said earlier on Friday that there was an “internal crisis in the army” that had led to the deployment of forces in key areas of the capital.
AFP journalists saw troops blocking several major roads and intersections in Ouagadougou, while soldiers were also stationed outside the state television station.
Government spokesman Lionel Bilgo said the “crisis” was related to a dispute over army salaries and that Damiba was involved in the negotiations.
Soldiers patrolling the streets of Ouagadougou after hearing gunshots in the morning
In the morning, gunshots erupted in the Awaga 2000 neighborhood, which houses the presidential and military council headquarters.
A resident near the presidential palace said: “I heard violent explosions around 4:30 am, and now military vehicles have closed the roads around my house.”
State television was cut off for several hours before the military announcement, broadcasting only a blank screen with the message “No video signal.”
This afternoon, an AFP journalist saw a group of hundreds of people gathering in a city square, calling for Dameba to leave and an end to the French military presence.
By evening, the soldiers were still in their places at the main points of the city, and the streets were mostly deserted.
In a statement, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the recent seizure of power, calling it “inappropriate” at a time when progress is being made towards a return to constitutional order by July 1. , 2024.
The French Foreign Ministry has told its citizens in the Burkinabe capital, whose number is believed to be between 4,000 and 5,000, to stay at home, while the European Union has expressed “concern” over the current events.
The United States said it was “extremely concerned” about the situation in Ouagadougou.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “We call for the return of calm and restraint by all parties.”
– The jihadists’ reins –
Although Damiba promised to make security his priority when he took charge on January 24, violent attacks have increased since March.
Map of Burkina Faso that locates the city of Djibo
To the north and east, rebels surrounded towns, blew up bridges, and attacked supply convoys.
As in neighboring countries, rebels linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have sparked unrest.
Thousands have been killed and nearly two million people displaced by the fighting since 2015 when the rebellion spread to Burkina Faso, which has since become the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region.
In September, a particularly bloody month, Damiba fired his defense minister and took the job himself.
Earlier this week, suspected jihadists attacked a convoy carrying supplies to the northern city of Djibo. The government said 11 soldiers were killed and about 50 civilians missing.
On September 5, an IED struck a supply convoy in the north, killing 35 civilians and wounding 37.
The next day, at least nine people – seven civilians and two soldiers – were killed in two separate attacks by suspected jihadists.
Much of the poor Sahel region is fighting the insurgency.
Starting in northern Mali in 2012, rebels attacked neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger in 2015.
In recent years, violence began to spread to the countries of Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin.