Burkina Faso: Students return to school amid fresh coup

Ibrahim Traore
Ibrahim Traore, interim military leader of Burkina Faso

Children in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, went back to school on Monday to begin the new school year as residents sought to regain some sense of normalcy days after the nation’s second military coup this year.

After Burkina Faso’s military leader, Paul-Henri Damiba, was overthrown by army captain Ibrahim Traore on Friday night, there was a weekend of unrest marked by violent protests in the nation’s capital and power struggles between two army factions.

Damiba offered his resignation on Sunday, with a list of conditions. He had ousted the country’s previous president, Roch Kabore, in January for failing to contain an Islamist insurgency – the same reason Traore said he ousted Damiba.

Neighbouring Togo’s government on Monday confirmed reports that Damiba was in the country, saying he was being hosted “in the spirit of peace”.

Political instability in Burkina Faso could worsen disruption that rampant insecurity has already brought upon schools across the region, which are often targeted by militants.

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More than 11,000 schools in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin are closed due to conflict or threats made against teachers and students, according to UNICEF.

Children across the region have missed out on their first day of school this year.

“It was an uncertain start to the school year but thanks to God, everything is going well. The atmosphere is good,” said Weknouni Kabre, a teacher at Pissy primary school, where smiling students greeted their friends and lined up for roll call.

“With a little worry given the situation, our wish as parents is that things go normally,” said Seydou Niampa, the father of two students at Pissy. “Since the authorities are reassuring us, we wish them good luck too with this first day.”

On Monday, the capital’s business was back to normal, with busy streets and reopened shops. However, the tension persisted.

After Traore’s soldiers said Damiba had sought refuge at a French army base, protests broke out over the weekend at the French embassy. France has denied any involvement in the events.

On Monday, there were a few smaller dispersed protests reported across the capital. Military police rapidly dispersed one outside the French embassy, according to an embassy source.

“We can’t be 100% sure there won’t be any disruptions. But we dare to believe that… we’ll be able to start and complete the year in peace,” said Edgard Zongo, director of Pissy school.