A new military takeover has been declared in Burkina Faso, after a day marked by gunfire and confusion in the capital city of Ouagadougou. The country’s land and aerial borders have been closed, and its constitution suspended.
In an announcement on state television late Friday, a Burkina Faso military official announced the dissolution of the current government and the dismissal of the junta leader, President Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba.
Army Captain Ibrahim Traore will now take the reins as the President of the country’s ruling junta, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR), which first seized power earlier this year, said military official Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.
With the suspension of the constitution and government, this is Burkina Faso’s second military takeover in a year.
Accompanied by more than a dozen members of the military, Sorgho read a communiqué from Traore declaring the changes. He also accused Damiba of “betraying” the military’s aim to restore security to the country.
“People of Burkina Faso, faced with the degradation of the security situation, we have attempted several times to refocus the transition on the issue of security,” Sorgho said.
“The risky choices of Lieutenant-Colonel Damiba have increasingly weakened our security apparatus,” he also said.
Prior efforts to calm the insurrection appear to have been in vain. Earlier on Friday, after residents of the capital city of Ouagadougou awoke to the sounds of gunfire, the junta’s then-leaders explained the situation as the result of “a mood swing” among some military members, and said talks were underway.
“The enemy that is attacking our country only wants to create division among Burkinabes to accomplish its destabilization,” Damiba said in a Facebook statement at the time.
Though normal activity was seen on the streets on Friday, heavy gunfire was heard coming from the main military camp and some residential areas of Ouagadougou. Several armed soldiers were seen taking positions along the main avenue leading to the presidency, as well as blocking access to administrative buildings and national television.
Damiba took power after a military coup on Jan. 24 ousted former President Roch Kabore and dissolved the government.
He vowed to restore security after years of violence carried out by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But his government struggled to deliver. Attacks persist and the army is in disarray.
This week, unknown assailants killed eleven soldiers during an attack on a 150-vehicle convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso. Fifty civilians are missing.
Large areas of the north and east have become ungovernable since 2018. Millions have fled their homes, fearing further raids by gunmen who frequently descend on rural communities on motorbikes. Thousands have been killed in attacks.
The West African country, one of the world’s poorest, has become the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 but has since spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert.