Burkina Faso: Soldiers overthrow military government in second coup this year

Armed soldiers in fatigues and masks appeared on television in Burkina Faso on Friday night to confirm the ouster of President Paul-Henri Damiba, the second coup in the West African country this year.

The announcement capped a day that began with gunfire near a military camp in the capital Ouagadougou, an explosion near the presidential palace, and interruptions to state television programming.

Burkina Faso’s new leader is army Captain Ibrahim Traore. In a scene that replicated Damiba’s own power grab in a January 24 coup, he appeared on television surrounded by soldiers and announced the government was dissolved, the constitution suspended and the borders closed. He declared a nightly curfew.

Damiba’s whereabouts remain unknown on Saturday morning. Traore said a group of officers who helped Damiba seize power in January had decided to remove their leader due to his inability to deal with the Islamists. Damiba ousted former President Roch Kabore for the same reason.

“Faced with the deteriorating situation, we tried several times to get Damiba to refocus the transition on the security question,” said the statement signed by Traore and read out by another officer on television. Civilian populations have cheered military juntas in the hope that they may be more successful at containing the insurgents than their democratically elected predecessors. But hope has faded fast.

Epicentre of violence


Burkina Faso has become the epicentre of violence carried out by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that began in neighbouring Mali in 2012 and has spread to other West African countries south of the Sahara Desert.

Thousands have been killed in raids on rural communities and millions have been forced to flee. This week, at least 11 soldiers died in an attack in the northern part of the country. Dozens of civilians are still missing.

Friday’s coup creates a conundrum for West Africa’s political bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has tried to persuade coup leaders in the region to return to civilian rule as soon as possible.

ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso after the January coup but had since agreed to a two-year transition back to democratic elections.

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