Burkina Faso police fire tear gas at anti-government protest

Military police launch tear gas canisters to disperse about 100 protesters trying to march towards downtown Ouagadougou to protest the government’s failure to quell violence.

A gendarme stands as civil organisations hold a protest calling for Burkina Faso's President Roch Kabore to resign and for the departure of French forces that patrol the country in Ouagadougou [Anne Mimault/Reuters]

Police have fired tear gas in Burkina Faso’s capital during a demonstration against the government’s failure to stop a wave of violence by hardliner fighters.

Opponents of President Roch Kabore, namely an alliance of three groups called the November 27 Coalition, called for renewed protests on Saturday in response to a recent surge of attacks in the West African country, including one by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that killed 49 military police officers and four civilians.

But other civil society groups distanced themselves from the protests, refusing, they said, “to be complicit with those who want to push the country into chaos”.

The assault two weeks ago near the northern town of Inata was the deadliest Burkinabe security forces have suffered since a rebellion broke out in 2015, and has sparked anger against the government and the French military forces that support it.

Since then, there have been scattered protests, and demonstrators in the city of Kaya prevented the passage of a French military convoy on its way to neighbouring Niger for nearly a week.

On Saturday, military police officers launched tear gas canisters to disperse about 100 protesters who were trying to march towards downtown Ouagadougou.

After retreating to side streets, the protesters began erecting barricades and burning tyres and rubbish cans.

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said that people are furious at the government because they do not feel secure in their country any more.

“One and a half million people have been displaced because of the violence in Burkina Faso and about 60 percent of them are children,” he said.

“Two-thirds of the country is not in government control, or at least there is fighting going on between the government and armed groups over [control of the areas],” he added.

‘Incompetent’ administration

One of the protesters, 28-year-old Fabrice Sawadogo, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that “after seven years of failure to prevent the terrorist attacks … it is time to ask the government to go.”

The “incompetent” administration “has to admit it has failed”, he said.

The public’s angry response to the latest attacks has unnerved the authorities, who cut mobile internet access a week ago and refused to authorise Saturday’s demonstration.

The United Nations’ special envoy to West Africa said on Thursday he was concerned about the situation in Burkina Faso and warned against any military takeover, following coups in three neighbouring countries over the past year.

The political instability has undermined a regional fight against fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), who continue to gain ground across West Africa’s Sahel region.

Groups linked to the two have plagued the landlocked Sahel, killing about 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes since 2015.

An attack on November 14 saw hundreds of fighters storm a gendarmerie camp at Inata in the north of the country, killing 53 police and four others.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies