Burkina Faso’s new self-declared leader Ibrahim Traore has accused the president he deposed in a military coup on Friday of plotting a counter attack, claiming he had French support.
Traore said on Saturday that ousted President Paul-Henri Damiba had taken refuge at a French army base where he was orchestrating his counter-offensive.
France, the country’s former colonizer, said that it had had no involvement at all in recent events. The French Embassy in Ouagadougou said that it was issuing a statement in response to reports circulating on social media.
Traore’s statement was read out on TV by an army officer surrounded by soldiers donning military fatigues and masks.
It 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.
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 towards constitutional government.
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.
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)
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