Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

Protests in Burkina Faso

Posted on in Burkina Faso title_rule

On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital city, rallying against the military’s take over. Both the United Nations and the African Union have rejected the military’s takeover, stating military leader’s now in control must hand power to a civilian transitional government or they may face sanctions.

During the early morning hours on Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou, gathering at the Place de la Nation. While early morning demonstrations appeared calm, by afternoon, reports surfaced of violent clashes between demonstrators and soldiers. Reports have indicated that the country’s national broadcaster, RTB, has gone off air after shots were heard at its headquarters. Witnesses near the scene reported seeing soldiers firing into the air to disperse protesters before forcing journalist to flee. Unconfirmed reports have indicated that crowds had gathered at the state TV headquarters after rumours spread that a popular leader was about to announce that she was willing to lead the transition. Soldiers have since taken over the Place de la Nation, where they have removed thousands of protesters and set up barricades.

Under Burkina Faso’s constitution, the speaker of parliament is supposed to step in as interim head of state following the president’s resignation. However on Friday, the army named second-in-command of the presidential guard, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, as head of the transitional authority. The opposition, and international mediators, are now calling for the army to step down and to allow a civilian transfer of power, warning that if these conditions are not met, sanctions may be imposed.

Former president Blaise Compaore and his wife have taken refuge in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.

The situation remains fluid and it is currently unclear when order will be restored. MS Risk advises all travellers in Burkina Faso to be aware of the following:

  • A curfew may be imposed later today as attempts are made to restore order. If a curfew is announced, MS Risk advises all travellers to adhere to the curfew hours.
  • Protests will likely be called by the opposition over the coming days in a bid to place further pressure on the army to allow a civilian transfer of power. Security forces will likely be deployed across the capital city, especially at government buildings, state TV headquarters and the army’s headquarters. MS Risk advises all travellers to avoid these areas of the capital city and to be aware of your surroundings at all times. We also advise that you stay away from demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent with minimal notice.
  • Although Ouagadougou International Airport is currently open, with officials indicating that services should return to normal within the next 24 – 48 hours, given the new wave of demonstrations, officials may opt to close the airport or reduce service in the coming days.
  • The government may impose restrictions on travel over the coming days, and may set up roadblocks across the country. You should be aware that illegal roadblocks may also be set up.
  • There is a potential for reduced availability in stores and petrol stations while any supply chain interruptions are sorted.

For up to date information on the current situation in Burkina Faso, follow us on @MSRisk_Security or visit our website: www.msrisk.com

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Burkina Faso President Resigns After Three Days of Protests

Posted on in Burkina Faso title_rule

After three days of protests, on Friday, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore formally announced his resignation, with the country’s armed forces chief General Honore Traore announcing that he has taken charge of the West African country.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Mr Compaore disclosed that the presidency was now vacant, and urged that the country hold elections within 90 days. Military chief General Honore Traore has since indicated that he has taken over as head of state. The announcement by Mr Compaore came less than twenty-four hours after the dissolution of parliament and the declaration of a state of emergency.

Following days of protests in Ouagadougou, which turned violent on Thursday as protesters stormed Parliament, setting fire to it and several official and unofficial buildings, the country’s army General announced early Thursday evening the creation of a transitional government after declaring the dissolution of parliament and imposing a night curfew. Mr Compaore announced late Thursday that he had agreed to not seek another term, but that he would remain in power until a transitional government had completed its work in 2015. The opposition however continued its demands that he resign, with its leader, Zephirin Diabre, calling on protesters to occupy public spaces in order to force the president to resign. On Friday, protesters occupied Ouagadougou’s Place de la Nation as well as the main army headquarters. Although in the early hours of Friday, Mr Compaore had restated his position that he would not resign, by the afternoon it was clear that the president no longer had a choice.

Burkina Faso 2

Mr Compaore’s statement, which was read on local television, disclosed, “in order to preserve the democratic gains, as well as social peace. I declare a power vacuum to allow the establishment of a transition leading to free and fair elections within a maximum of 90 days. “ Lieutenant-Colonel Issaac Zida also made the announcement to protesters at the Place de la Nation, which was greeted with cheers from the crowds.

While the current whereabouts of the president remain unclear, diplomatic sources have reported that a heavily armed convoy, believed to be carrying Burkina Faso’s now–former president Blaise Compaore was seen travelling towards the southern town of Po, near the border with Ghana.

Although MS Risk expects that order will be restored across the country quickly, all travellers currently in Burkina Faso should be aware of the following:

  • Curfew’s may be imposed over the following days as order is restored. If this is the case, MS Risk advises all travellers to adhere to the curfew hours.
  • There is a likelihood of increased military and police presence across the country, especially in the capital city. Security forces will likely be deployed to all government buildings, with an increased military presence at the army’s headquarters.
  • Demonstrations celebrating the president’s resignation may occur over the coming days, particularly in Ouagadougou. MS Risk advises all travellers to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent with minimal notice.
  • The government may impose restrictions on travel over the coming days, and may set up roadblocks across the country. You should be aware that illegal roadblocks may also be set up.
  • With Ouagadougou airport closed on Thursday 30 October, continued limited air carrier services are likely continue over the weekend as airlines monitor the situation. Services will likely be up and running on 3 November.
  • There is a potential for reduced availability in stores and petrol stations while any supply chain interruptions are sorted.

For up to date information on the current situation in Burkina Faso, follow us on @MSRisk_Security or visit our website: www.msrisk.com

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Violent Protests in Burkina Faso as Nationals Oppose Third-Term Presidential Bid

Posted on in Burkina Faso title_rule

Following a day of protests, that saw hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital city, trade unions on Wednesday called on a general strike just one day ahead of a Parliamentary assembly, which will consider a constitutional amendment aimed at extending the President Blaise Compaore’s 27-year rule.

Marching through the capital city, with banners reading “Blaise Get Out!” and “Don’t Touch Article 37,” which is in reference to the constitutional term limit that the president’s allies want to alter, Tuesday’s demonstration was one of the largest protests demanding that President Blaise Compaore step down when presidential elections take place next year. Since a vote on the amendment was proposed 21 October, hundreds of protesters across the capital city have assembled barricades and burned tyres. On Friday, secondary school children deserted class in order to join the protests, creating major disruptions across the capital city while on Monday, schools and universities across the country announced a week closure as opposition members vowed to carry out protests to fight the proposed amendment. The rising tension comes ahead of Thursday’s meeting where the country’s Parliament will consider a constitutional amendment that would effectively allow the president to run for at least another five years.

Protests Across Ouagadougou

Tensions across the capital city were high on Tuesday as pre-dawn violence broke out in several areas of the city. Gendarmes firing tear gas dispersed dozens of youths, who barricaded the country’s main highway in the early morning hours. Hundreds of thousands of people later set off from the capital’s main Place de la Nation square to participate in one of the largest demonstrations against the proposed amendment, with violence erupting near the end of the march and lasting for several hours. According to on the ground sources, security forces fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the protesters, many of whom were clutching iron bars, throwing stones and burning tyres. Makeshift barricades set up by protesters across the city blocked traffic and access to the city’s key areas for several hours. Security forces also charged demonstrators after they apparently got too close to the country’s parliamentary building.

In a bid to keep up the pressure against President Compaore, trade unions and civil society groups have called a general strike for Wednesday, while the opposition has called for a blockade of Parliament in order to prevent the review from taking place.

On Thursday, Burkina Faso’s National Assembly will study the proposed constitutional amendment that would effectively extend the maximum term limit from two to three and allow the president to run for re-election for another five-year term. The country’s opposition however has called for a campaign of civil disobedience to force the president to quit once his term is completed next year. They have described the government’s attempts at extending the terms as a constitutional coup. Civil society groups have also requested that the move be discarded, indicating that the country risked being paralyzed if the amendment went through. Fears of what such a vote may bring have also resonated across the West African region and globally, with the United States disclosing Wednesday that it was “concerned by the spirit and intent” behind the draft bill to scrap the presidential term limits. A statement released by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicated that the US is urging “…all involved, including Burkina Faso’s security forces, to adhere to non-violence and to debate this issue in a peaceful and inclusive manner.”

His bid to stay in power however has also angered the public, including many young people in a country where 60 percent of the population are under the age of 25, and effectively have only known one president. The recent demonstrations and protests indicate that a large majority of the population is no longer willing to know the rule and power of one president and are instead opting for democratic change that will see progress.

In power since 1987, when he seized control in an October 1987 coup in which his former friend, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated, President Compaore has been re-elected president four time since 1991 – to two seven-year terms and two-five year terms. The opposition now fears that if the amendment to the constitution, which is not expected to take previous terms into account, is passed, then this will enable President Compaore to seek re-election three more times, effectively enabling him to stay in power for another fifteen years. Fears that the amendment would pass increased over the weekend when the country’s third largest party in parliament announced that it would back the amendment, giving the ruling party the two-thirds majority it require to make the change without resorting to a referendum as was initially promised.

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French President Set to Embark on Africa Tour Ahead of New Regional Military Operations

Posted on in Mali, Sahel Region title_rule

On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande will embark on a trip to three former colonies in West Africa. The official tour comes as his country puts the finishing touches to a military operation aimed at combatting extremist violence in the Sahel region. On Sunday, France’s Defense Minister announced that the country will end its military offensive in Mali, effectively replacing it with a new operation, codenamed Barkhane, which will involve some 3,000 French troops and which will span the largely lawless Sahel region. However in a sign that tensions in Mali are far from over, on Monday the French Defense Ministry confirmed that a French legionnaire died in a suicide attack near the northern town of Gao. This is the ninth casualty that France has suffered in the West African nation.

Africa Tour

According to the President’s office, Hollande’s upcoming visit will include stops in the Ivory Coast, Niger and Chad, which is where Barkhane’s headquarters will be located. The French president will begin his African tour in Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast, which is currently on the economic rebound after experiencing a decade of unrest that was sparked by a failed coup in 2002. He will then visit Niger, which includes a stop at a French military base from which surveillance drones are deployed within the region. According to a source close to Hollande, because Niger is surrounded by restive areas – Nigeria to the south, Libya to the north, and Mali to the west – the president will “continue strategic talks on all these crisis areas surrounding the country and establish how we can collaborate to ensure better security in the region.” In the Chadian capital N’Djamena, Hollande will visit the headquarters of Operation Barkhane, which apart from troops, will also mobilize drones, helicopters, fighter jets, armored vehicles and transport planes.

Operation Barkhane

France announced Sunday that its military offensive in Mali will now be replaced by an operation that will focus on the wider and largely lawless Sahel region, and will aim at combatting extremist violence, which is now threatening the entire area.

During a television interview Sunday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that President Francois Hollande “…wanted a reorganization of our troops in the Sahel zone.” France’s Serval offensive was launched in January last year and saw French troops deploy to aid Malian soldiers in stopping al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels from descending further south and advancing on the capital Bamako. While France had initially planned to end operation Serval in May, and redeploy troops to the Sahel region to fight al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups, renewed clashes between rebels and the army in the northeastern town of Kidal effectively forced officials in Paris to delay the pull out.

While the French-led Serval operation, which saw nine soldiers die over a period of eighteen months, has widely been deemed a success by the international community, Le Drian indicated that the concern has now shifted to the vast Sahel region, noting the operation aims “to make sure there is no upsurge (in terrorism) as there are still major risks that jihadists will develop in the zone that goes from the Horn of Africa to Guinea-Bissau,” adding “the aim is to prevent what I call the highway of all forms of traffics to become a place of permanent passage, where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves, which would lead to serious consequences for our security.”

The new “counter-terrorism” operation, which has been codenamed Barkhane, will launch in the coming days and is being implemented in partnership with five countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Some 3,000 French soldiers will take part in the operation in which 1,000 will remain in the northern regions of Mali while the rest will be deployed in the four other countries. Drones, helicopters, fighters jets, armored vehicles and transport planes will be used in the operation, with the headquarters stationed in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

Suicide Attack in Northern Mali

Meanwhile, in what is a sign that security in northern Mali remains fragile, France’s Defense Ministry confirmed Tuesday that a French legionnaire has been killed in a suicide attack in northern Mali. This brings the number of soldiers killed in Mali since 2013 to nine.

A statement released by the Defense Ministry indicated that Serbian-born Dejvid Nikolic, 45, who held French nationality and was part of the Genie 1st regiment, “fell victim to a suicide attack” about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the northern town of Gao on Monday. A suicide bomber in a car targeted French troops who were on a security mission in the Al Moustarat region north of Gao. Seven soldiers were injured in the attack and Nikolic died of his wounds on Monday evening. He had been a legionnaire for more than twenty-five years and served in several hot spots, including Afghanistan and Lebanon. He had also worked in Africa, notably in Gabon and Djibouti. The Defense Ministry stated that his currently mission was his eight abroad. News of the death of the French soldier comes just days before President Francois Hollande is due to travel to West Africa as France prepares to redeploy some of its troops from Mali to the wider and largely lawless Sahel region in a bid to combat extremist violence.

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France Announces Wider Sahel Operation While Tensions Continue to Rise in Northern Mali

Posted on in Mali, Sahel Region title_rule

France announced Sunday that its military offensive in Mali will now be replaced by an operation that will focus on the wider and largely lawless Sahel region, and will aim at combatting extremist violence, which is now threatening the entire area.

During a television interview Sunday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that President Francois Hollande “…wanted a reorganisation of our troops in the Sahel zone.”

France’s Serval offensive was launched in January last year and saw French troops deploy to aid Malian soldiers in stopping al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels from descending further south and advancing on the capital Bamako. While France had initially planned to end operation Serval in May, and redeploy troops to the Sahel region to fight al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups, renewed clashes between rebels and the army in the north-eastern town of Kidal effectively forced officials in Paris to delay the pull out.

Although the French-led Serval operation, which saw eight soldiers die over a period of eighteen months, has widely been deemed a success by the international community, Le Drian indicated that the concern has now shifted to the vast Sahel region, noting the operation aims “to make sure there is no upsurge (in terrorism) as there are still major risks that jihadists will develop in the zone that goes from the Horn of Africa to Guinea-Bissau,” adding “the aim is to prevent what I call the highway of all forms of traffics to become a place of permanent passage, where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves, which would lead to serious consequences for our security.”

The new “counter-terrorism” operation, which has been codenamed Barkhan, will launch in the coming days and is being implemented in partnership with five countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Some 3,000 French soldiers will take part in the operation in which 1,000 will remain in the northern regions of Mali while the rest will be deployed in the four other countries. Drones, helicopters, fighters jets, armoured vehicles and transport planes will be used in the operation, with the headquarters stationed in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

While France plans to launch operation Barkhan in the coming days, tensions in the northern region of Mali have increased over the past week amidst reports of renewed fighting.

On Friday, Malian government officials confirmed that armed groups in northern Mali have begun to regroup, a move that is in violation of a recent truce signed between them and the government. A government statement released by Mali’s state-owned news agency indicated “corroborating information details military gatherings and even advances by troops from armed groups in certain locations in the north,” adding “such acts are unacceptable because they violate the ceasefire agreement of May 24” between the Malian government and armed groups. The truce was brokered after fighting erupted between the army and militants in the northeastern desert town of Kidal.

According to officials in Bamako, the mobilizations in the north come “a few days ahead of the opening of inclusive talks planned in Algiers from July 16.” The talks were announced late Wednesday by Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra during a visit to Burkina Faso and are aimed at restoring stability in the north.

On the ground sources have also reported that fighting broke out on Friday between two of the movements due to participate in the upcoming discussions. According to Mohamed Ould Mataly, who represents one wing of the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), the Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was attacking “our positions.” Mohamed Ag Rhissa, spokesperson for the MNLA in Kidal, confirmed that “…clashes are taking place between Anefis and Tabankor.” Lt. Col. Diarran Kone, a defence ministry adviser also confirmed that clashes had taken place, adding that the Malian army was not involved.

The latest incidents are likely to further increase the already high tensions, with further clashes between the two groups likely to occur in the coming days. They also highlight the on going fragility of Mali’s security and relations between the government and northern rebel groups.

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