OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Gunfire rang out early Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital and the state broadcaster went off the air, sparking fears that another coup attempt may be underway, nine months after the democratically elected president was ousted from power.
The whereabouts of coup leader-turned president Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was not immediately known but a statement from his government on Facebook urged people to remain calm.
“Negotiations are underway to bring back calm and serenity,” said the statement attributed to the presidency spokesman. “The enemy attacking our country only wants division between Burkinabes.”
Friday’s developments felt all too familiar in West Africa, where a coup in Mali in August 2020 set off a series of military power grabs in the region.
“This smacks of a coup attempt,” said Eric Humphery-Smith, senior Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft. “While gunfire around military barracks could be due to some form of mutiny, the closure of the national television station bodes ill.”
On the streets of Ouagadougou, some already were showing support for what they believed was Damiba’s ouster.
“We are demonstrating to support this coup, confirmed or not,” said Francois Beogo, a political activist from the Movement for the Refounding of Burkina Faso. “For us, it is already a coup.”
Stay calm Burkina Faso leader says
A statement has been posted on the official Facebook page of the presidency of Burkina Faso, in which the country’s leader Lt Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba urges the population to “stay calm and be careful” amid reports of gunfire and a heavy military presence in the capital.
There are reports that a coup may be taking place, but a government source, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC some soldiers had mutinied.
Lt Col Damiba also said people should not panic over what they are reading on social media.
“Talks are under way to restore calm and serenity,” amid a “confused” situation caused by certain elements of the army, the statement said.
“The enemy attacking our country only wants division between Burkinabès to accomplish its destabilisation action”, it continued.