Ouagadougou (AFP)- Mutinous troops in restive Burkina Faso arrested President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Monday and detained him in army barracks a day after staging an uprising, security sources told AFP.
Soldiers at several military bases across the West African country rioted on Sunday, demanding the sacking of top military brass and more resources to fight a bloody jihadist insurgency.
Later in the day, gunshots were heard near Kaboré’s private residence in the capital Ouagadougou, and witnesses reported seeing a helicopter overhead.
“President Kaboré, the head of parliament and the ministers are indeed in the hands of the military” at the Sangoule Lamizana barracks in the capital Ouagadougou, a security source said, another source confirming the arrest.
The situation was tense and confused in the capital, where mobile internet was cut on Sunday, making it difficult to verify rumors of an ongoing coup.
An AFP reporter said a dozen hooded soldiers posted themselves outside the national RTB television channel on Monday, but it was not immediately clear whether they were part of the mutineers or had been sent by the government .
Kaboré, first elected in 2015 before being re-elected five years later promising to prioritize the fight against the jihadist insurgency, has faced growing public anger over the failure to stop bloodshed.
A group of demonstrators supporting the military set up makeshift roadblocks in several main streets of the capital before being dispersed by the police, AFP journalists found.
Several coups or attempted coups have taken place in Burkina Faso. In neighboring Mali, where the insurgency began before crossing the border, the army overthrew the civilian government in 2020.
The latest volatility in Burkina Faso began on Sunday morning when gunshots were heard at numerous military bases, including two in Ouagadougou.
The rebel troops presented a list of demands, which highlighted the need for a better anti-jihadist strategy, but did not mention the attempt to oust Kaboré.
“We want adequate means for the battle” against Islamist extremists, said a soldier from the Sangoule Lamizana base in Ouagadougou in a voice recording sent to AFP.
Disgruntled soldiers also wanted top generals to be “replaced”, better care for injured soldiers and more support for the families of soldiers killed in action, the spokesman for the mutinous troops added in the anonymous recording.
Talks between military representatives and Defense Minister General Barthelemy Simpore were unsuccessful, a government source said.
On Saturday, amid signs of mutinies by soldiers, police used tears to break up banned protests against the government’s anti-jihadist strategies, arresting dozens of people.
Then on Sunday, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party.
Before the announcement of the arrest of the president, the government had denied a “takeover by the army”.
In response to the unrest, authorities imposed a nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Sunday “until further notice” and the Education Ministry announced that schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The Sangoule Lamizana camp where Kabore is held also houses a military prison where General Gilbert Diendere, former right-hand man of deposed President Blaise Compaoré, is serving a 20-year sentence for a 2015 coup attempt.
Diendere is also on trial for his alleged role in the 1987 assassination of the country’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, in a putsch that brought Compaoré to power.
Compaoré, overthrown by a popular uprising in 2014, fled to Ivory Coast and is being tried in absentia for the assassination.
Around 2,000 people have died, according to an AFP tally, while around 1.5 million people are internally displaced, according to national emergency agency CONASUR.
© 2022 AFP