[The military ousted the president in Burkina Faso, the latest in a spate of recent military coups in Africa. Follow live updates.]
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Gunfire broke out at military bases across the conflict-torn West African nation early Sunday as part of a mutiny sparked by soldiers angered by their government’s failure to stop the wave of attacks of Muslim gunmen.
The shooting began just before dawn at military bases in the capital Ouagadougou and in two other cities. When the shooting subsided a few hours later, the government issued a statement denying that a coup was underway and insisting that it was completely under control.
Despite this, the soldiers retained control of the bases and demanded sweeping changes to the campaign against the Islamist militants, undermining the government’s authority. Riot police officers fired tear gas in the center of Ouagadougou to keep crowds of young protesters calling for the ouster of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré from going to a traditional protest site in the center. city. Mobile internet services are down.
By nightfall, an uneasy calm had settled over the city, with a smaller number of protesters gathering outside the gates of a major military base, urging soldiers to rebel. take full power. There was no sign of Mr Kaboré, whose only public action of the day was to post a message on Twitter in support of the national football team, which is playing a big game.
Burkina Faso won that match against Gabon in a penalty shootout, advancing to the next stage of Africa’s top soccer tournament. The fate of government is less clear.
Appearing on state television, Defense Minister Barthélémy Simporé said the unrest was limited to “a few barracks” and that the government had reached out to rebel soldiers to find out their demands.
The mutiny comes months after Mr Kaboré changed the military’s leadership, in what analysts see as an attempt to quell opposition within the armed forces. Earlier this month, the government arrested a dozen soldiers on suspicion of plotting against the government.
US Embassy in Burkina Faso reports gunfire at five military bases in the capital and in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya.
“This is, sadly, completely predictable,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This is what happens when the rule of law and transparency are weak. The situation is further precarious due to the pattern of coups in the region”.
The unrest also coincides with a wider violent upheaval and democracy seriously lags behind in the region.
A wave of Islamist violence in the Sahel region has increased over the past year, with 2,000 people dead in Burkina Faso alone. End 100 people died in an attack on a village north of Burkina Faso in June, one of the deadliest in the region in years. On Sunday, France said one of its soldiers was killed in a mortar attack on a camp in Gao, in neighboring Mali.
Public anger at Mr Kaboré’s failure to stop the violence, which has destabilized parts of eastern, western and northern Burkina Faso, has sparked protests in recent months and raised fears of a coup.
There has been an uptick in military takeovers across sub-Saharan Africa over the past year, with soldiers taking power in Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan. In November, the United Nations special envoy to West Africa warned that Burkina Faso might be next.
The first sign of trouble on Sunday was a continuous barrage of gunfire before dawn at Sangoulé Lamizana, a military camp in central Ouagadougou that houses a prison that inmates including soldiers take part in. a coup plot in 2015.
Speaking to reporters outside the camp, an officer made a list of demands that included replacing Burkina Faso’s army commander and intelligence chief, providing greater resources for the military operation. fight Muslim gunmen and improve medical care for soldiers wounded in the war.
An air of surrealism pervades the city for the rest of the day. The city’s Place de la Nation is inaccessible, where riot police fired tear gas, protesters burned tires and closed a major road.
Nearby, soldiers continued to occupy a large military base, from which occasional gunfire erupted.
But in the rest of the capital, residents continued to go to church in the morning and gather in cafes in the afternoon to watch their team play in the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I don’t have time for protests,” said Dennis Konombo, 23, a car wash with a flag wrapped around his head, who shouted with joy when the team scored. “We just want peace.”
But for others, the only solution is to fire the government. In November, protesters clashed with riot police, reflecting widespread anger at Islamist forces that have since 2015 severely destabilized Burkina Faso, until recently. a poor but largely quiet West African country.
The government tried to prevent another wave of protests from breaking out on Saturday. Several hundred young men, some throwing stones, clashed with police officers, who responded with tear gas. A journalist was injured during the unrest.
Open support for the overthrow of the government was evident in the streets of the capital, where a look of normality persisted on Sunday despite the chaotic situation.
Amed Ouedrago, a 32-year-old businessman, sells national flags by the roadside before the football match between Burkina Faso and Gabon.
“We want the military to take over,” Ouedrago said, while occasional gunshots were heard from the nearby Sangoulé Lamizana base.
Struggling to find buyers for his 75 cent flags, the trader said he himself has participated in previous rounds of rally. “People were disappointed, but the police responded with tear gas,” he said. “Now we are back on the street again. We want a new person in charge.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/23/world/africa/burkina-faso-mutiny-gunfire.html The sound of gunfire at the Battle of Burkina Faso’s capital is a revolt of soldiers