OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso Gunfire erupted inside several military bases across the country hit by the West African conflict early Sunday as part of a notorious military-led rebellion calling for sweeping changes to the shaky government campaign against Islamic militants.
The shooting started shortly before dawn at bases in the capital, Ouagadougou, and at least one other city. Hours later the shooting had subsided and the government issued a statement denying rumors that a coup was taking place and insisting it was completely under control.
However, the soldiers seemed to have control of some military bases and the authority of the government was badly shaken. Police officers threw tear gas to the center of Ouagadougou to prevent young protesters, also angry with government failures, reaching a traditional protest country in the city center. Mobile internet services were shut down.
Speaking on state television, Defense Minister Barthlmy Simpor said the riots were limited to a few barracks and that the government had contacted rebel soldiers to find out their demands.
The rebellion comes months after President Roch Marc Christian Kabor changed military leadership into what analysts saw as an attempt to quell opposition within the armed forces. Earlier this month the government arrested a dozen soldiers suspected of plotting against the government.
The United States Embassy in Burkina Faso announced gunshots at five military bases in the capital and in the northern cities of Kaya and Ouahigouya.
The unrest also coincides with a wider violent unrest and a rapid democratic slide in the region.
Public anger has risen in Burkina Faso for months over President Kabors’s failure to curb attacks by Islamist and other armed groups in large areas east, west and north of the country.
That, alas, is entirely predictable, said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. This is what happens when the rule of law and transparency are weak. The situation is even more precarious given the template for the coup in the region.
More than 100 people were killed in an Islamic attack on a village north of Burkina Faso in June, one of the deadliest in the region for years. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the death of a French soldier during a mortar attack on a camp in Gao, Mali.
There has been an increase in coups across Sub-Saharan Africa over the past year, with military invasions in Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan. In November, the UN special envoy for West Africa warned against any military control in Burkina Faso.
The overthrow coincides with the long-awaited trial of 14 people for the overthrow of President Thomas Sankara in 1987, a new leader of Burkina Faso whose progressive ideals inspired many Africans. The violent death of Mr. Sankaras during the coup, led by a former friend, cast a shadow of decades across the country.
The riots erupted early Sunday when gunfire erupted before dawn inside the Sangoul Lamizana camp in central Ouagadougou, which houses a prison whose inmates include soldiers involved in a failed 2015 coup attempt.
The video distributed by residents showed volleys of gunfire over the city. Hours later, an unidentified group of soldiers appeared to have taken control of the camp.
Speaking to reporters gathered outside the camp, an officer gave a list of demands, including the replacement of the army chief and intelligence chief in Burkina Faso, greater resources for the military campaign against Islamic militants, and improved medical care for wounded soldiers. in war.
Riots are escalating on the streets. Young protesters calling for the overthrow of governments clashed with riot police in November, reflecting public anger over Islamist militants, who since 2015 have badly destabilized Burkina Faso, until recently a poor but predominantly quiet in West Africa.
The government had tried to prevent another round of protests that took place on Saturday. Several hundred youths, some throwing stones, clashed with police officers, who responded with tear gas. A journalist was injured in the riots.
Open support for the overthrow of governments is evident in the streets of the capital, where a look of normalcy continued on Sunday, despite the riots.
Amed Ouedrago, a 32-year-old businessman, sold national flags on the side of the road ahead of a football match later that day between Burkina Faso and Gabon in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon.
We want the military to take over, Mr Ouedrago said, as occasional gunshots could be heard from the nearby Sangoul Lamizana military base.
Struggling to find holders for his 75-cent flags, the trader said he himself had participated in previous rounds of anti-government protests. People are frustrated, but police respond with tear gas, he said. Now we are back on the road again. We want someone new in power.
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