Protesters attack French Embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital after countercoup

Fire is seen at the French Embassy during a demonstration of supporters of Burkina Faso's self-declared new leader Ibrahim Traore in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso October 1, 2022. REUTERS/Vincent Bado

Following accusations that France was harboring the expelled interim president, which the French government firmly rejected, angry protestors attacked the French Embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital on Saturday.
Less than nine months after staging his own coup in Burkina Faso, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was ousted, according to a group of soldiers who appeared on state television late on Friday.
While his whereabouts were still unknown late on Saturday, a new remark ascribed to Damiba was made in reference to Capt. Ibrahim Traore, the newly elected leader, and put on the Burkina Faso presidency’s Facebook page.
“I call on Captain Traoré and company to come to their senses to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso does not need,” said the statement attributed to Damiba, who unlike other ousted West African leaders has yet to tender a resignation.
Earlier on Saturday, a junta spokesman’s remarks had sparked unrest in the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou.
“Damiba has tried to retreat to the Kamboinsin French military base to prepare a counteroffensive in order to sow divide amongst our defense and security forces,” said Lt. Jean Baptiste Kabre, reading a statement on behalf of the new junta leadership.
Residents were seen holding torches outside the French embassy’s fence in social media videos, while other pictures showed that the compound was on fire.
Anger-filled mobs also damaged the French institute in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second-largest city in Burkina Faso.
In light of the “confusing” scenario in Ouagadougou, France has denied any involvement in the developments in its former colony and advised its residents to remain at home.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the violence against our diplomatic presence in Burkina Faso,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Saturday. “Any attack on our diplomatic facilities is unacceptable.”
In a previous statement on Saturday, the ministry said that “neither our embassy nor Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba have ever been hosted by the camp where the French military are situated.”
In interviews on Saturday, Traore, the 34-year-old army captain who assumed leadership after the Friday night coup was aired on state television, maintained that he and his soldiers had no desire to hurt Damiba.
“If we wanted, we would take him within five minutes of fighting and maybe he would be dead, the president. But we don’t want this catastrophe,” Traore told the Voice of America. “We don’t want to harm him, because we don’t have any personal problem with him. We’re fighting for Burkina Faso.”
Later, he declared on Radio Omega:  “We have no intention to bring Damiba to justice. We only wish that he would go rest because he is tired, and as for us we are going to continue to do the work.”
In the midst of the unrest, the world community strongly denounced the removal of Damiba, who had in January deposed the nation’s president who had been lawfully elected.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, stated on Saturday that the country of the United States “is gravely disturbed by events in Burkina Faso.”
“We call on those responsible to de-escalate the situation, prevent harm to citizens and soldiers, and return to a constitutional order,” he said.
The developments were harshly denounced by both the African Union and the ECOWAS bloc, which represents West Africa.
“ECOWAS finds this new power grab inappropriate at a time when progress has been made,” the bloc said, citing Damiba’s recent agreement to return to constitutional order by July 2024.

RELATED: African Union suspends Burkina Faso following military coup

After assuming office in January, Damiba made a commitment to put a stop to the Islamic extremist violence that had driven 2 million Burkinabes from their homes. However, the police team headed by Traore said on Friday that Damiba had failed and was being fired.
According to the newly appointed junta leadership, “all fighting forces will center on the security issue and the restoration of the integrity of our territory.”
But whether the junta can resolve the crisis is still up in the air. Already on Saturday, there were growing worries that the recent political unrest would further divert the military, allowing the jihadis to tighten their grip on the formerly tranquil nation.
However, some in Burkina Faso’s military believed Damiba was in too close of a relationship with France, a former colonizer that still has troops stationed in Africa’s Sahel region to aid nations fighting Islamic militants. Some Traore supporters have urged Burkina Faso’s leadership to look to Russia for assistance instead.
The decision of which international partners to work with has been a source of disagreement for the MPSR (junta), the army, and even the general populace for months, according to Constantin Gouvy, a Burkina Faso researcher at Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.
“Damiba was leaning toward France, but we might see the MPSR more actively exploring alternative from now on, with Turkey or Russia for example,” Gouvy added.
The coup leader has asked Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to aid with security in neighboring Mali, a decision that has sparked international outrage and claims of human rights abuses.
Nine months after the ouster of Mali’s president in August 2020, the junta’s leader ignored his civilian transition counterparts and took exclusive control of the country. This led to a second coup.
The most recent upheaval was described as “extremely sad” by Chrysogone Zougmore, president of the Burkina Faso Movement for Human Rights, who said that the political unrest will not aid in the battle against Islamic extremist terror.
“How can we hope to unite people and the army if the latter is characterized by such serious divisions?” Zougmore said.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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