Burkina Faso Coup: Live Updates as Military Seizes Power

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Credit…Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – The army announced on Monday that it had seized power in Burkina Faso, suspending the constitution and ousting the country’s democratically elected president hours after mutinous soldiers surrounded his home.

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, 64, has ruled Burkina Faso, a poor and landlocked country in West Africa, since 2015. this nation of 21 million people.

Burkina Faso had remained largely peaceful until 2015. But that year, militant groups launched a violent campaign as part of a wider upheaval in the Sahel, the vast expanse of land just south of the Sahara.

The violence has destabilized large swaths of Burkina Faso, displacing 1.4 million people and causing 2,000 deaths in the last year alone. And it has led to growing public frustration with Mr. Kabore, who, particularly young people, have blamed the government’s failure to stem the tide of violence.

Credit…Olympia De Maismont/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Over the past year there has been a wave of coups in Africa, the highest concentration in years, with recoveries in Guinea, Sudan, Chad and Mali.

The coup in Burkina Faso was announced on state television late Monday afternoon by a junior army officer who said the army seized power in response to “the exasperation of the people”. Beside him sat Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, a senior army officer who was introduced to the people of Burkina Faso as their new head of state.

The military said the country’s land and air borders would be closed and a nighttime curfew would be imposed until further notice.

There was no mention of Mr. Kaboré’s whereabouts and no indication that he had agreed to stand down. “Authorities were captured without bloodshed and are being kept safe,” the soldier said.

The army’s announcement came after a turbulent day in Burkina Faso.

On Sunday, soldiers seized several military bases and riot police clashed with civilian protesters. In the evening, gunshots were heard near the president’s home, which lasted until the early hours of Monday, triggering hours of uncertainty amid reports that the military was pressuring the president to that he resign.

In the afternoon, a tweet had appeared on President Kaboré’s account asking people to stand firm behind their faltering democracy. “Our country is going through a difficult period,” he wrote, urging the mutinous soldiers to lay down their arms.

Credit… Burkina Faso Radio Television, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Public support for the mutiny was driven by the perception that Mr. Kaboré was unable to repel the Islamist groups that had been sowing chaos for so long, said Rinaldo Depagne, Burkina Faso expert at the International Crisis Group.

“He’s not absolutely awful and corrupt,” Mr Depagne said of the ousted leader. “But obviously people think, rightly or wrongly, that a man in uniform with a big gun is better able to protect them than a democratically elected president.”

A few hours before the official announcement of the coup, some inhabitants of the capital welcomed it as a fatality.

Soldiers stood guard outside the public broadcaster early in the morning as young men on motorbikes drove past, honking and cheering. At a nearby cell phone market, Kudougou Damiba fell to his knees.

” We are saved ! said the cellphone retailer. “Roch is gone.”

Credit…Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

Mr Damiba blamed the president for his own downfall, saying he had failed to unite the people against the rising tide of Islamist violence.

“The country has been fractured,” he said. “Instead of uniting people, Roch divided them, which allowed the jihadists to attack us. It’s his fault.”

The blame has also fallen on former colonial power France, which has deployed troops to the Sahel region, including Burkina Faso, in an effort to counter Islamist attacks, although the situation continues to deteriorate.

Not everyone hailed the military takeover. Among the customers of the mobile phone market was Anatole Compaoré, a 31-year-old unemployed man.

Mr. Compaoré took part in a wave of recent street protests against Mr. Kaboré’s regime, but even so he was skeptical that his country’s problems would be solved by a new military regime.

When Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso’s ruler for 27 years, was overthrown in 2014, “they said everything was going to change,” he said. “But nothing has changed. And I’m not sure it will be different this time.

Credit…Olympia De Maismont/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images