Soldiers took over Burkina Faso’s state broadcaster Friday night to announce they had deposed President Paul Henri Damiba, after just eight months in power.
In downtown Ouagadougou on Saturday afternoon, soldiers that helped bring about a military coup the night before lay prone behind cover at a strategic junction in the city. The day before, they had seemed at ease.Businesses were closing, as many feared retaliation against the putschists by a faction of the army that still supports the now-ousted president, Paul Henri Damiba.
VOA was able to speak to local people about the apparent change in leadership, as Army Captain Ibrahim Traore, becomes the new head of the country’s junta.
One trader, who declined to give his name, near where the soldiers had cordoned off the center of the city, told VOA he supported the coup.
“What we want is peace,” he said. “It is not about politics; we just want someone who will give us a better result [in terms of security]. When you look at the number of victims, it exceeds even that during the former [democratic] president’s time… It’s no use, [Damiba] hasn’t changed anything.”
The former junta, run by Damiba, justified the coup it instigated in January on the promise it would resolve the country’s security problem within two years, according to analysts. Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows security has not improved in the last eight months.
Asked if he thought the new junta could improve the situation, another trader, who also said he supported the coup, told VOA, “I think we should always try; I think we shouldn’t say we can’t, because where there is a will, there is a way. So, I think that those who made the coup know that things are not going well within the army and that they will be able to bring peace.”
But many are not celebrating the arrival of the new junta. On Friday, Mathias Ouedraogo, leader of the civil society organization Generation de Veille Citoyenne, took to the street with other protesters in support of Damiba.
He said change at the top has never been a solution. “The changes in leadership since 2015 have not benefited us. So we remind our brothers in arms, our elder brothers, our younger brothers, and all Burkinabes. Let us not divide the army any further. With an army that is divided, the enemy will get the better of us.”
Michael Shurkin, an analyst with 14 North Strategies, a Washington-based consultancy, said the new junta is unlikely to do much to improve security.
“The chances that this captain, who is replacing him, has better ideas and will make better decisions is really very doubtful,” he said. “I think he’s kidding himself and there’s a failure to recognize the enormity of the challenges in front of them and how hard it is to accomplish all the things they’re going to have to accomplish in order to save their country.”
Saturday afternoon, members of the new junta appeared on TV again to claim that France is sheltering Damiba at a French special forces base on the outskirts of Ouagadougou and is looking to reinstate him as president. The French embassy had already released a statement officially denying the rumors earlier in the day.