Burkina Faso: Junta leader urges calm after gunshots raise coup fears

Damiba Paul-Henri, Junta Leader

After gunshots increase coup concerns, the Junta leader calls for calm.

The military leader of Burkina Faso said he was in talks to settle things down on Friday after gunshots and an explosion in the capital sparked worries of a second coup in eight months.

After daybreak on Friday, soldiers and military vehicles poured onto the empty streets of Ouagadougou, blocking access to administrative buildings.

The city, which is often buzzing with automobiles and motorcycles, was quiet by mid-morning. Banks, shops, and schools were all closed, and State television stopped broadcasting.

Although it was unclear if the explosion and shooting near a military camp were related to a coup attempt, security sources said that the military has become frustrated with the lack of advancement in the fight against Islamist militants.

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In a statement, Damiba, who seized control in a coup in January, encouraged restraint. He said that certain military personnel had produced a “confused situation” as a result of their “mood swings.”

His whereabouts remain a mystery.

The most recent turmoil has characteristics in common with previous power grabs that have spread over West and Central Africa in the last two years, erasing years of democratic progress.

The coups were fueled in part by violence perpetrated by Islamist militants who have taken control of vast portions of northern Burkina Faso as well as parts of neighboring Mali and Niger.

In the hopes that they would be more effective at restraining the rebels than their democratically elected predecessors, civilian populations have supported military juntas.

“If successful, it would mark the sixth unconstitutional takeover in the Sahel in the past two years,” said Eric Humphery-Smith, Senior Africa Analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft. “If it isn’t, it’s still a damning indictment for the state of democracy in the region.” As well as Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, and Guinea have all seen coups since 2020.

Burkinabe who were frustrated with the incapacity of the administration of previous President Roch Kabore to contain terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda largely welcomed Damiba’s takeover.