Burkina Faso: Who are Lieutenant Colonel Damiba’s confidants?

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Tuesday, 8 February 2022 09:40

Portrait of Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba brandished during a demonstration in support of the junta, 25 January 2022, in Ouagadougou © Sophie Garcia/AP/SIPA

Discussions are still underway regarding Burkina Faso's constitution of the 'Mouvement Patriotique pour la Sauvegarde et la Restauration' (MPSR). However, some figures are beginning to emerge within the entourage of President Kaboré's ouster.

Ever since the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Sauvegarde et la Restauration (MPSR) took power on 24 January, discretion has been the order of the day within its ranks. As soon as the junta was formed, it was revealed that Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba would serve as its president.

The lieutenant-colonel is not an unknown entity. On 16 December, he was promoted to commander of the 3rd military region, the largest in the country, which covers Ouagadougou as well as the garrisons of Tenkodogo, Fada and Pô. But negotiations are still underway to designate two vice-presidents and the movement’s coordinator.

Several officers who played a role in the events still remain in the shadows. Although Damiba’s entourage is heterogeneous in terms of bodies and generations, they have one thing in common: they all passed through the military school Prytanée Militaire du Kadiogo (PMK).

Naon Daba

Lieutenant-Colonel Naon Daba, who graduated with Damiba in 1992, is one of his most trusted men. He has just been appointed commander of the fire brigade. Daba spoke with the Ecowas ministerial delegation on 31 January at the presidential palace in Kosyam. He also attended the meeting arranged by the organisation’s emissaries along with the deposed president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

In 2015, he was part of the Burkinabe intelligence services. The latter were behind the phone tapping – which ended up tainting certain figures, including Djibrill Bassolé and Guillaume Soro – that took place during the 2015 Michel Kafando-led failed putsch against the political transition’s authorities. From 2005 to 2010, he was the commander of the National Fire Brigade School (ENASAP), based in Bobo-Dioulasso.

Victor Koagri Tankoano

41-year-old Major Victor Koagri Tankoano, former commander of Gaoua’s 22nd commando infantry regiment, is another one of Damiba’s classmates who is at the heart of the MPSR. He has been at the army staff’s disposal since last December.

Born in Fada N’Gourma, he served as acting commander of the École Nationale de Sous-Officiers d’Active (ENSOA) in Kamboinsin, near Ouagadougou, from 1 August 2017 to 26 December 2018. He is presented as part of the core group of officers who opposed the 2015 putsch. According to our information, the deposed regime asked Tankoano to mount an operation aimed at subduing the putschists. Without success.

Cyprien Kaboré

On 24 January, when the coup plotters announced that they had seized power in front of the cameras of RTB, Burkina Faso’s national TV station, Captain Sidsoré Kader Ouédraogo, another PMK graduate (class of 2003), had been tasked with reading the declaration. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Cyprien Kaboré is now presented as the MPSR’s spokesman. He read the movement’s basic act, which includes 8 titles and 37 articles, on RTB.

After training at the PMK, Kaboré enrolled at the Georges Namoano military academy, from which he graduated as a section leader in 2003, in Pô. In August 2015, he took command of the Groupement d’Instruction des Forces Armées (GIFA), located in Bobo-Dioulasso. Today, he is the Pô military academy’s chief of staff.

Young lieutenants and captains, presented as men of the field, are also some of Lieutenant-Colonel Damiba’s close advisers. Among them are Captain Karim Souabou, from the 1998 PMK class, who was in charge of the Direction des Sports until the putsch, and Lieutenant Aboubacar Ouattara, from the 2003 class, who is Damiba’s protocol officer.

Evrard Somda

On 1 February, Lieutenant-Colonel Evrard Somda was promoted to the prestigious position of the National Gendarmerie’s chief of staff. Appointed commander of the special forces on 16 December, he considers himself one of Damiba’s true brothers in arms.

Not only did they attend PMK together, they also graduated on the same day. Furthermore, they went to the same officer training school. Two years apart (in 2017 for Damiba, in 2017 for Somda), they entered the Paris war school, and together pursued a master’s in criminology at the CNAM.

Before being appointed the national gendarmerie’s chief of staff, Somda was Prime Minister Paramanga Tertius Zongo’s (2007-2011) bodyguard. He then led the elite unit of the Gendarmerie Nationale du Burkina Faso (USIGN), an entity that was created in 2013 to step up the fight against terrorism.

Somda put all his weight behind the putsch to avoid a confrontation between the gendarmes and the red berets. With his appointment, Damiba hopes to ease tensions between the two bodies.

Three civilians

There are civilians advising the junta. Rassablega Seydou Ouédraogo – director of Free Afrik, a research institute based in Ouagadougou – was approached to join the select committee around Damiba. Constitutionalist Luc Marius Ibriga, who headed the Autorité Supérieure de Contrôle d’État et de la Lutte contre la Corruption (ASCE-LC), is also advising the MPSR.

Nourdine Tall, director of information technology and the electoral file at the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (Ceni), who also supported Damiba while at the PMK, also works with the Mouvement.

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