Burkina Faso army captain announces overthrow of military government

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A Burkina Faso army captain on Friday announced the ouster of military leader Paul-Henri Damiba and the suspension of the country’s constitution and transitional charter in a statement read on national television.  

Army Captain Ibrahim Traoré said a group of officers had decided to remove Damiba due to his inability to deal with a worsening Islamist insurgency.

He announced that Burkina Faso’s borders were closed indefinitely and that all political and civil society activities were suspended.

Around 15 soldiers in fatigues appeared on the Radio-Television broadcaster shortly before 8pm local time and read out the statement. 

“We have decided to take our responsibilities, driven by a single ideal – the restoration of security and integrity of our territory,” they said. 

Reporting from the capital Ouagadougou shortly after the takeover announcement, FRANCE 24’s Sophie Lamotte said a curfew has been imposed from 9pm to 5am local time. 

“The streets are very calm and there’s a very strong military presence in the capital, especially surrounding the presidential palace and the telecommunication headquarters,” she said. 

Earlier Friday, gunfire rang out in Ouagadougou and the state broadcaster went off air amid fears of a coup. Soldiers were seen at the city’s main crossroads, especially in the Ouaga 2000 neighbourhood, but also outside the state television centre.

Rein in jihadists

Violence has long wracked the landlocked West African country where Damiba took power in a January coup, ousting elected leader Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

Damiba has pledged to restore civilian rule within two years and to defeat the armed factions.

As in bordering countries, insurgents affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have stoked the unrest.

Thousands have died and about two million have been displaced by the fighting since 2015 when the insurgency spread into Burkina Faso, which has since become the epicentre of the violence across the Sahel.

Damiba earlier this month sacked his defence minister and assumed the role himself.

The mini-shuffle, the first since the appointment of a transitional government in March, saw only one new minister introduced –  Colonel-Major Silas Keita was named minister delegate in charge of national defence and promoted to brigadier general. 

More than 40 percent of Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is outside government control.

Attacks have increased since mid-March, despite the junta’s vow to make security its top priority.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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