Is a new coup underway in Burkina Faso, barely eight months after Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba initiated one on 24 January? Or, as some suggest, are soldiers simply demanding that their bonuses be paid? In the late morning of 30 September, no one in Ouagadougou really seemed to have an answer to these questions.
Bursts of gunfire
One thing however is certain. Despite the apparent normality in the capital’s streets, the situation has been very volatile ever since gunfire was heard at dawn. At around 4:30am (local time), gunfire rang out near the Baba Sy military camp, one of the city’s main camps, as well as in the Ouaga 2000 district, near the presidential palace in Kosyam.
In the hours that followed, military vehicles were deployed in several strategic locations in Ouagadougou: not only at the UN roundabout, but also around Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB), the national television station, which had its programmes interrupted.
According to security sources, soldiers from the Special Forces, members of the famous Cobra unit, are behind this movement. They claim to be demanding that their bonuses be paid to them as promised. For their part, the army soldiers who make up the Groupement de Sécurité et de Protection Républicaine (GSPR), which are responsible for protecting the presidency and Damiba, are said to have fired warning shots.
Negotiations between officers
Since arriving in power, Damiba has been living in a ministerial villa near Kosyam Palace. One of his close friends, who spoke with him early this morning, told us that the head of state was “doing well” and was still in Ouagadougou. According to several military sources, negotiations are now taking place between officers to find a solution to this potentially explosive situation.
The situation is in any case very serious for the lieutenant-colonel who became President. He returned earlier this week from New York, where he participated in the UN General Assembly, and until now has been regularly criticised for his inability to resolve the security crisis that plagues his country, but never before has he been so challenged by a part of the army. It now remains to be seen whether he will be able to contain the situation or not.
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