Burkina Faso CoupJanuary 26, 2022 in Uncategorized
During the afternoon hours on Monday 24 January, Burkina Faso’s army ended growing speculation about the events of the previous 24 hours and announced that it had ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The army also announced that the country’s constitution had been suspended, that the government was dissolved, that national air and land borders were closed and that a curfew (2100 – 0500) will be in place until a new order. The announcement followed hours of confusion after gunfire erupted at army camps on Sunday night. The former president has not been seen since Sunday and his whereabouts currently remain unknown.
MPSR & Damiba
The military takeover statement was made in the name of a previously unknown entity, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR). On Monday, it announced that the “MPSR, which includes all sections of the army, has decided to end President Kaboré’s post today.” It cited the deterioration of the security situation in the country and what it described as Kaboré’s inability to unite the nation and ineffective response to the challenges it faces.
Meanwhile a lieutenant appointed to oversee security in Ouagadougou has emerged as the leader of the military coup. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was presented as the president of the MPSR. The 41-year-old Damiba had been promoted in December 2021 by ousted leader Kaboré to commander of Burkina Faso’s third military region in what some viewed as an effort by the president to shore up support within the army. The appointment to the strategic position came in the wake of the November attack on a gendarmerie post in the northern town of Inata, which killed 49 military officers and four civilians. Reports that troops had gone without food rations for two weeks had sparked anti-government protests and calls for Kaboré to step down. In his new post, Damiba proceeded to reorganize the military ranks, appointing new officers to key roles with the declared intent of battling the uprising. While Kaboré has been faulted by the army for the rising rebel violence, Damiba has sought to present himself as an expert in countering terrorism. He studied at a military academy in Paris, France, and obtained a Master’s degree in criminal sciences from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers. In June, he published a book titled West African Armies and Terrorism: Uncertain Responses? in which he analysed anti-terrorism strategies in the Sahel region and their limits. Between 1987 – 2011, Damiba had been part of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RPS) of former president Blaise Compaore. Once Compaore was overthrown in 2014, after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest at plans to extend his rule, the unit was dissolved by the transitional government, in a move that caused resentment amongst some officers. Reports indicate that Damiba resigned from the RPS in 2011 following a wave of protests and a violent army mutiny. He was later posted to the north-eastern town of Dori as Commander of the 11th Infantry Commando Regiment (RIC) and to the northern town of Ouahigouya as Commander of the 12th RIC. In 2015, he and other officers took part in an attempted coup that briefly deposed the transitional government. Burkinabé media indicate that Damiba later testified in the trial of conspirators behind the coup. Following the coup in 2015, Damiba left the country to pursue further military studies, though details of his time abroad remain limited. Upon his return, he took the leadership of the 30th RCAS, a regiment tasked with supporting Burkina Faso’s’ counter-terrorism strategy. On 3 December, ousted president Kaboré entrusted Damiba with protecting Ouagadougou from the threats posed by a religious rebellion. There are reports that Monday’s coup began as a mutiny at a military base hosting a prison where some of the key military figures that were involved in the 2015 coup attempt are imprisoned.
Regional & International Reactions
In the wake of this past weekend’s events, the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS earlier on Monday both condemned what they called an attempted coup. The United States and the European Union have also called for Kaboré’s “immediate release.” He is currently being held at an army base. On the ground however, more than 1,000 people gathered in the main square (Place de la Nation) in Ouagadougou on Monday to celebrate the coup, with some burning the French flag while others dancing as live music played. The burning of the French flag is the latest sign of the growing frustration about the former colonial power’s military role in the region.
As of Tuesday 25 January, French President Emmanuel Macron has disclosed that the situation in Burkina Faso appears to be calm as he condemned the coup, and said that ousted President Kaboré was in good health and not being threatened. The governing party in Burkina Faso meanwhile has reported that what began as an army mutiny is rapidly evolving into a coup. In a statement on Monday, the People’s Movement for Progress disclosed that President Kaboré and a government minister had survived assassination attempts.
While in its announcement on Monday, the army indicated that a return to democracy would be swift, it remains to be seen in the coming days and weeks what the transitional period will look like. For the moment, ECOWAS has not made any announcements on possible repercussions that those behind the coup could face. However, given the fact that it imposed economic sanctions on Mali and Guinea in the wake of those respective coups, it is likely that similar moves will be made in the coming days.
On Tuesday 25 January, celebratory gatherings occurred in Ouagadougou, with participants gathering in support of the military takeover made on behalf of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration (MPSR). Despite the latest turmoil, life in Ouagadougou seemed to continue as normal on Tuesday, with the city’s main market, shops and petrol station open. The troop presence appears to be mainly army, with the gendarmerie being less visible. While initially, the ruling military had closed Burkina Faso’s air and land borders, on Tuesday, it announced the resumption of air traffic while reopening land borders for vehicles carrying humanitarian, military and essential goods. As of Tuesday morning, mobile internet appears to have been restored, a move that has been welcomed by the populace. The 2100 – 0500 curfew remains in place until further notice.
An increased security presence is likely in the coming hours and days across the country, notably in the capital Ouagadougou. Associated localized transport, commercial and telecommunications disruptions are also likely to persist. Further flight disruptions are likely and officials may suspend international travel and or close borders in response to the latest developments. Checkpoints across Ouagadougou may also be set up. Protests either in support or in opposition to the recent developments could also occur in major cities nationwide. Anyone planning to travel to Burkina Faso is advised to avoid all non-essential travel until the situation stabilizes. In the event that travel is necessary, reconfirm transport services, including flights, before departure. Persons currently in the country are advised to shelter in place and to maintain close contact with their diplomatic representation. Individuals should ensure that they have enough supplies for the next several days and should limit travel both within Ouagadougou and outside of the capital. Avoid government buildings, security installations, large concentrations of police and soldiers, or any protests that may materialize. Heed all instructions by the local authorities – remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by security personnel.
With much of the focus now concentrating on the political situation in Burkina Faso, jihadists groups operating in the country may use this period to launch attacks both in major cities across the country and rural areas as a mechanism to instil further fear amongst the local populations. Attacks could be indiscriminate and could affect Burkinabé security forces, religious sites, restaurants, schools, markets and places frequented by foreigners. Anyone currently in Burkina Faso is advised to maintain heightened vigilance at all times.