Burkina Faso Mutiny (24 Jan 2022)January 24, 2022 in Uncategorized
Four security sources and a West African diplomat reported on Monday 24 January 2022 that Burkina Faso President Roch Kaboré has been detained at a military camp by mutinying soldiers. The security situation in Burkina Faso currently remains fluid with reports that the Burkinabé military will make a statement on the current situation later on Monday. While for the moment, Burkina Faso’s borders remain open, a number of international air lines have cancelled flights for today.
Monday’s events follow heavy gunfire that was reported around the president’s residence on Sunday night in the capital city, Ouagadougou. Sustained gunfire also rang out from military camps across the country, including in Ouagadougou, Kaya and Ouahigouya, throughout Sunday, as soldiers demanded more support for their fight against Islamist militants. While on Sunday, the country’s Minister of Defence denied that the army had seized power, as of Monday afternoon, President Kaboré’s whereabouts remain unclear, with reports indicating that he has been detained and arrested by the mutinying soldiers. Several rumoured vehicles of the presidential fleet, riddled with bullets, could be seen near the president’s residence, with one being spattered with blood. Residents of the neighbourhood have reported that heavy gunfire was heard overnight. Sources report that state television in Burkina Faso is under military control, with soldiers reported to have surrounded the television station in the capital. There has been no live programming as of Monday morning, though it remains on air.
President Kaboré has faced waves of protests in recent months as frustrations amongst the local populations have grown over the frequent attacks and killings of civilians and soldiers by militants with ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group. A militant attack in November 2021, which targeted a gendarmerie post in Inata, in the northern Soum region, killed 49 military police officers and four civilians. The attack also highlighted the conditions that most soldiers working in Burkina Faso face on a regular basis. Shortly after the attack, it emerged that the forces stationed at the post had run out of food and had been forced to hunt animals in the vicinity for two weeks. On numerous other occasions, soldiers have also complained of a lack of proper equipment and adequate training. In November, in the wake of the attack in Inata and a number of protests, President Kaboré pledged to end “dysfunction” in the army, stating at the time that an inquiry into the Inata attack would be followed by disciplinary measures and that he would launch an anti-corruption drive. On 9 December, he dismissed his prime minister, which by law triggered the resignation of the entire government. However protests continued, with unrest occurring on 22 January. Mutinying soldiers over this past weekend have highlighted their growing frustrations with the Burkinabé government in its failure to adequately equip them. On Saturday, major protests were held in Ouagadougou as the local populations are also increasingly growing frustrated with the ongoing insecurity in the country. On Sunday, protesters also came out to support the mutineers, with some ransacking the headquarters of the president’s political party in Ouagadougou. While the Burkinabé government has denied the military uprisings were part of a coup attempt, officials indicated on 11 January that they had arrested several army personnel, including Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, on suspicion of plotting to destabilize the government.
The latest turmoil in Burkina Faso comes as the wider West African region has seen a string of successful military pushes in the last eighteen months. Coups have been held in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), and more recently in Guinea, where the army removed President Alpha Condé last September. In Chad, the military also took over after the death of President Idris Déby, who died on the battlefield there. A transitional council continues to be in place in Chad. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Mali over its failure to adhere to the electoral timeline and while it remains unclear what its response will be to the current developments in Burkina Faso, ECOWAS stated on Monday afternoon that it condemned the move and called on soldiers to return to their barracks. It further indicated that it was closely monitoring the situation.
On 24 January, the French Embassy in Burkina Faso issued a security advisory, advising French nationals to limit non-essential daytime travel and to avoid travelling at night across Ouagadougou amidst ongoing mutinies. The embassy further indicated that French schools in the capital will remain closed on 25 January. Additionally, French carrier Air France announced that it would suspend both of its flights scheduled from Paris (CDG) to Ouagadougou on 24 January. Turkish Airlines and Royal Air Maroc have also reportedly suspended their respective scheduled flights from Istanbul and Casablanca on 24 January.
As of Monday afternoon, mutinying soldiers remain stationed in front of the National TV building in Ouagadougou, where the military is expected to make a statement on the current situation in the coming hours. Gatherings have also been taking place at Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou as of Monday morning, with youths gathering to celebrate the mutinies. The rest of the city however has remained relatively quiet, with many services and shops closed for the day and minimal traffic circulating across Ouagadougou.
Gatherings are also reportedly occurring at Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou to celebrate the mutinies. On Monday afternoon, President Kaboré’s official Twitter account posted a statement, saying “our Nation is going through difficult times. At this precise moment, we must safeguard our democratic achievements. I invite those who have taken up arms to lay them down in the Higher Interests of the Nation. It is through dialogue and listening that we must resolve our contradictions. RK.” No further statements have been made by the president or the Burkinabé government. On 23 – 24 January, authorities initially implemented a nationwide 20:00 – 05:00 curfew in response to earlier unrest and mutinies at several military bases across the country. That curfew could be extended in the coming hours and days in response to the latest developments. Earlier on 23 January, authorities suspended mobile internet services. It currently remains unclear when they will be restored.
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.