Situation under control says Burkina Faso coup leader conflict

“Situation under control,” says Burkina Faso coup leader | conflict messages

Protesters target the French embassy and march with the Russian flag in Ouagadougou, believing Moscow can help Burkinabe army defeat armed groups.

Burkina Faso’s new military leadership said the situation in the country was under control and urged people to refrain from vandalizing the French embassy.

The comments came on Sunday after security forces fired tear gas at dozens of stone-throwing protesters outside the French embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital as unrest simmered in the West African nation following its second coup d’état this year.

Supporters of the coup leader gathered outside the building in Ouagadougou a day after he accused deposed military chief Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba of hiding at a French base to plan a “counteroffensive”.

“We want to inform the population that the situation is under control and that order is being restored,” military spokesman Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho said on national television. He was flanked by coup leader Captain Ibrahim Traore and other armed and masked soldiers.

Sorgho urged people to “refrain from any acts of violence and vandalism…especially those that could be perpetrated against the French embassy or French military base.”

While French troops looked on from the embassy roof, protesters outside set fire to barriers and threw stones at the structure as the volleys of tear gas were fired.

The latest outbreak of violence in Burkina Faso began on Friday when younger military officers toppled Damiba, accusing him of failing to quell attacks by armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Damiba came to power in a coup in January.

A statement signed by Traore on Saturday said Damiba “was believed to have taken refuge at the French base at Kamboinsin to plan a counter-offensive to create difficulties for our defense and security forces”.

Later on Saturday, Damiba denied claims he had been at a French base but gave no further details on his whereabouts.

France, which has colonized Burkina Faso in the past, denied “any involvement” in the coup or that “the Burkinabe authorities were hosted by or under the protection of the French military.”

“The camp where French forces are located did not house Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba or our embassy,” France’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It was the second coup this year in Burkina Faso and the latest in the Sahel, much of which is fighting a growing military operation by armed groups.

“There have been international condemnations from France, the United Nations, the African Union and the West African organization ECOWAS – all calling for the soldiers to return to their barracks,” said Nicolas Haque of Al Jazeera in Dakar, in neighboring Senegal.

The photo shows a crowd of Burkinabe protesters on a tree-lined street in OuagadougouA man holds a Russian flag during a demonstration in Ouagadougou [Vincent Bado/Reuters]

There have also been increasing protests in support of the putschists, he added. Protesters marched with the Russian flag in Ouagadougou, believing that Moscow can bring victory to the Burkinabe army, which is facing setbacks at the front.

In a written statement on the presidency’s official Facebook page, Damiba urged his rivals “to come to their senses to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso doesn’t need.”

The Burkina Faso Army General Staff dismissed the coup as an “internal crisis” within the military and said dialogue was “ongoing” to resolve the situation.

Damiba himself came to power in a coup in January and installed himself as leader of the country’s 16 million people after accusing President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kabore of failing to repel armed militants.

Burkina FasoSupporters of Burkina Faso’s self-proclaimed new leader Ibrahim Traore hold a Russian flag in Ouagadougou [Vincent Bado/Reuters]