Burkina Faso junta leader urges calm after gunshots raise coup fears

OUAGADOUGOU, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s military leader said he was in talks to restore calm on Friday after gunfire and a blast in the capital raised fears of a second coup in eight months.

Soldiers and military vehicles took to the deserted streets of Ouagadougou after dawn on Friday, cutting off access to administrative buildings.

By mid-morning, the city, usually buzzing with motorbikes and cars, was quiet. Schools, businesses and banks were shut. State television stopped broadcasting.

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It was not clear if the gunfire near a military base and the explosion were part of a coup attempt, but security sources say there has been frustration within the military at a lack of progress in combating Islamist militants.

Damiba, who took power in a coup in January, urged calm in a statement. Certain members of the armed forces overcome by “moods swings” had created a “confused situation,” he said.

His whereabouts are unknown.

The latest unrest bore the hallmarks of other power grabs that have swept across West and Central Africa over the past two years, undoing years of democratic progress.

The coups have been driven in part by violence committed by Islamist groups who have taken over large areas of northern Burkina Faso and parts of neighboring Mali and Niger.

Civilian populations have cheered military juntas in the hope that they would be more successful at containing the insurgents than their democratically-elected predecessors.

“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.


Damiba’s takeover was largely celebrated by Burkinabe fed up with the inability to form President Roch Kabore’s government to rein in militants linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Burkina Faso has become the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 and has spread across the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert.

The militants have killed thousands of people in Burkina Faso in recent years.

Damiba had pledged to restore security but attacks have worsened. The army is in disarray and frustrated, security sources say.

Activists have blocked areas of the north, leaving communities stranded. Government convoys and air drops deliver essential goods to trapped civilians.

This week, unknown assailants killed 11 soldiers in an attack on a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso. Fifty civilians are missing. read more

Many cities and towns not under siege have seen their populations swell as people flee violence in the countryside.

Protests against the military took place across Burkina Faso this week to demand the government do more to improve the security situation. Much of the country has become ungovernable since 2018.

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Writing by Edward McAllister, Bate Felix and Sofia Christensen, Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Toby Chopra

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