Gunshots resound in the sky Burkina Faso’s capital is a revolt of soldiers

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Gunfire broke out inside several military bases across the conflict-torn West African country early Sunday as part of an apparent mutiny led by soldiers, demand sweeping changes to the government’s faltering campaign against Islamist militants.

The shooting began just before dawn at bases in the capital Ouagadougou and in at least one other city. Hours later, the shooting had subsided and the government issued a statement denying rumors that a coup was underway, insisting it was completely under control.

Even so, soldiers appear to have taken control of several military bases and the power of the government has been severely shaken. Riot police officers fired tear gas in central Ouagadougou to prevent young protesters, also angry at the government’s failure, from accessing the traditional protest site in the city center. Mobile internet services are down.

Appearing on state television, Defense Minister Barthélémy Simporé said the unrest was limited to “a few barracks” and that the government had reached out to the rebel soldiers to find out their demands.

The mutiny comes months after President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré changed the leadership of the military, in what analysts see as an attempt to quell opposition within the armed forces. Earlier this month, the government arrested a dozen soldiers on suspicion of plotting against the government.

US Embassy in Burkina Faso reports gunfire at five military bases in the capital and in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya.

The unrest also coincides with a wider violent upheaval and democracy seriously lags behind in the region.

Public anger has grown in Burkina Faso for months over President Kaboré’s failure to prevent attacks from Islamist and other armed groups across large swaths of the east, west and north of the country.

“This is, sadly, completely 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 further precarious due to the pattern of coups in the region”.

End 100 people died in an attack by Islamist forces on a village north of Burkina Faso in June, one of the deadliest attacks in the region in years. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the death of a French soldier in a mortar attack on a camp in Gao, Mali.

Over the past year, military coups have increased throughout sub-Saharan Africa over the past year, with military takeovers in Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan. In November, the United Nations special envoy for West Africa warned against any military takeover in Burkina Faso.

Volatility coincides with many predictions Trial of 14 people for the 1987 overthrow of President Thomas Sankara, a young leader of Burkina Faso, whose progressive ideals have inspired many Africans. Mr. Sankara’s violent death in the coup, led by an old friend, cast a decades-long shadow across the country.

The upheaval began early Sunday when continuous gunfire broke out before dawn inside the Sangoulé Lamizana camp in central Ouagadougou, which houses a prison with inmates including soldiers involved in a conspiracy. The coup failed in 2015.

Video taken by residents shows gunfire following tracks across 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 laid out a list of demands that included replacing Burkina Faso’s military commander and intelligence chief, providing greater resources for the military operation. resistance to Islamist militants and improved medical care for soldiers wounded in the war.

Unrest is growing in the streets. Young protesters calling for the overthrow of the government clashed with riot police in November, reflecting public anger at the Islamist terrorist group that has since 2015 severely destabilized. important for Burkina Faso, which was until recently a poor but largely quiet West African country.

The government tried to prevent another wave of protests from taking place on Saturday. Several hundred young men, some throwing stones, clashed with police officers, who responded with tear gas. A journalist was injured during the unrest.

Open support for the overthrow of the government was evident in the streets of the capital, where a look of normality persisted on Sunday despite the chaotic situation.

Amed Ouedrago, a 32-year-old trader, sold national flags by the roadside before a football match later that day between Burkina Faso and Gabon during the Cup of African Nations tournament in Cameroon.

“We want the army to take over, because sometimes gunfire can be heard from the nearby Sangoulé Lamizana military base,” Ouedrago said.

Struggling to find buyers for his 75 cent flags, the trader said he himself has participated in previous waves of government protests. “People were disappointed but the police responded with tear gas,” he said. “Now we are back on the street again. We want a new person in charge.”

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