France, UN, West African states condemn military takeover in Burkina Faso

·3 min read

Soldiers in Burkina Faso announced on state television on Monday evening that they have seized power following a mutiny. French President Emmanuel Macron said he stood beside other African leaders from the Ecowas regional body in condemning the coup.

A junior officer announced the suspension of the constitution, the dissolution of the government and parliament, and the closure of the country's borders from midnight Monday, reading from a statement signed by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

He said the new Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) would re-establish "constitutional order" within a "reasonable time", adding that a nationwide nightly curfew would be enforced.

Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the military coup in Ouagadougou, welcoming soldiers, honking car horns and waving the national flag.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had spoken to leaders from the Ecowas body and would do so again in the coming days.

"This is just one of several military coups which are extremely worrying," he told journalists, "particularly at a time when the priority in the region is fighting islamist terrorism," adding that Kabore was a legitimate leader who had been democratically elected twice.

Earlier Monday, the United States called for Kabore's release and urged "members of the security forces to respect Burkina Faso's constitution and civilian leadership."

UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement he "strongly condemns any attempted takeover of government by the force of arms", calling events a "coup".

Assassination attempt

Following contradictory reports over Kabore's whereabouts EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement: "We now know that President Kabore is under the control of the military."

He said the situation was "extremely worrying" and called for his immediate release.

A government source had said Kabore was "exfiltrated" from his home late Sunday by his presidential guard "before the arrival of armed elements who fired on the vehicles of his convoy".

An AFP correspondent early Monday saw three bullet-ridden vehicles outside Kabore's residence, with traces of blood visible on one.

The People's Movement for Progress ruling party said Kabore was the victim of an "aborted assassination attempt".

A government minister, who was not named, also survived an attempt on his life and the president's home was ransacked, it added.

On Sunday, soldiers rose up at several army bases across Burkina Faso, which has been fighting the Islamist insurgency since 2015.

They demanded the removal of military top brass and more resources to fight insurgents, but made no mention of seeking Kabore's ouster.

Police used tear gas to disperse banned protests on Saturday, arresting dozens. Mobile internet was cut the same day.

On Sunday, demonstrators set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party. Fresh protests were staged on Monday.

Avoid travel

The president, in power since 2015 and re-elected in 2020, has faced rising public anger about the failure to stop the bloodshed in the poor, landlocked country.

Around 2,000 people have died, according to an AFP tally, while around 1.5 million people are internally displaced, according to the national emergency agency CONASUR.

Burkina Faso has seen several coups or attempted coups. In neighbouring Mali -- where the insurgency began before crossing the border -- the military toppled the civilian government in 2020.

On Monday, West African states in the ECOWAS grouping described the latest volatility as a "coup attempt" and held "soldiers responsible for (Kabore's) physical well-being".

The African Union said its commission chief, Moussa Faki Mahamat, "strongly condemns the attempted coup d'etat against the democratically elected president".

France, the former colonial power in Burkina Faso, urged its citizens in the country to "avoid any travel" and said two Air France flights scheduled for late Monday had been cancelled.

(with wires)

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