Burkina Faso’s transitional president Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba has been forced to resign

By Anne Kappès-Grangé, Benjamin Roger

Posted on Monday, 3 October 2022 12:33
Pro-coup demonstrators in the streets of Ouagadougou, 30 September 2022. © Olympia DE MAISMONT / AFP

Burkina Faso’s transitional president Paul-Henry Sandaogo Damiba, who himself came to power by force in January, finally stepped down after the coup carried out by Ibrahim Traoré and his men.

Under pressure from part of the army, and after 48 hours of confusion, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba finally decided to resign as president of Burkina Faso’s transitional government on the morning of 2 October.

According to our information, the document was signed at 9am local time, at the air base in Ouagadougou. Damiba became president by force on 24 January 2022 after overthrowing President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and remained in power for just over eight months.

This information was confirmed in the afternoon by a statement from religious and customary representatives, who had been leading the negotiations with the military since the previous day. “President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba has tendered his resignation in order to avoid clashes with serious human and material consequences,” it said.

The document specifies that the head of state set seven conditions, including ensuring that commitments made by Burkina Faso to the Community of West African States (Ecowas) are respected, that his safety and rights as well as those of his collaborators and the soldiers at his side are guaranteed. “The president of the MPSR, Captain Traoré, has accepted these conditions,” the text concluded.

Captain Traoré, head of the 10th Regiment of Command and Support (10th RCAS) based in Kaya, had announced on Friday evening on the airwaves of the Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB) that he would be heading the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Sauvegarde et la Restauration (MPSR). At this time, it is not yet certain whether he will remain as head of the country. According to our information, military discussions are centred around this issue. Some young officers say that Captain Ibrahim is “not interested in power” and “wants to return to combat”. Having the military appoint a civilian president has not been ruled out.

While the situation remains very confusing and everyone is waiting for an official announcement, the leader of the coup plotters appeared again on national television at around 12pm local time on Sunday. “The situation is under control. Things are going back to normal,” he said.

Failed negotiations

Just yesterday, when a section of the army rose up to demand that their bonuses be paid and Damiba’s resignation, the balance of power had seemed uncertain. Negotiations, partly conducted under the auspices of religious leaders led by Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo and a representative of Mogho Naaba, the country’s most influential traditional chief, lasted for part of the night but did not result in the two sides reaching a compromise.

On Sunday morning, a large part of the army ended up supporting the Cobra unit, which was behind the mutiny. “This decision was taken unanimously and in the interest of preserving peace. It was also the most appropriate solution,” said a senior army officer. This left Damiba with no choice but to accept defeat.

“Avoiding a fratricidal war”

On 1 October however, he had expressed himself on the presidency’s Facebook page, calling on the coup plotters “to return to reason to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso does not need at this stage.” He said that although he had not left power, he formally denied taking refuge in the French base of Kamboinsin.

“It is only an intoxication to manipulate opinion,” he added, responding to accusations by the coup plotters who, in a televised address, had claimed that he was “planning a counter-offensive” from a “French base” near Ouagadougou.

Even though Paris quickly denied this, it did not stop protesters from targeting the French embassy in Ouagadougou and the French Institute in Bobo-Dioulasso. A few hours later, on the evening of 1 October, Captain Traoré tried to calm things down.

The shadow of the Russians

“There is a base called Kamboinsin, where there is a French base,” he told France 24. “When someone is exfiltrated to this base, they say the French military base of Kamboinsin. I know that France cannot interfere directly in our affairs. We have other partners today who can support us, not just necessarily Russia. The Americans are our partners now, we can also have Russia as a partner, so it’s not about France or a problem with Russia and Wagner.”

In his televised address on Sunday, he called on Burkinabè to “go freely about their business and refrain from any acts of violence and vandalism that could mar the efforts made since the night of 30 September 2022. In particular those that could be perpetrated against the French embassy or the French military base located in Kamboinsin.”

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