Security forces have fired tear gas at protesters barricading the streets and throwing rocks in Burkina Faso’s capital, as anger grows at the government’s inability to stop armed attacks spreading across the country.
Several hundred people marched through downtown Ouagadougou on Saturday chanting for President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to resign.
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“The jihadists are hitting [the country], people are dying, others are fleeing their homes … We want Roch and his government to resign because their handling of the country is not good. We will never support them,” protester Amidou Tiemtore told The Associated Press news agency.
Some people were also protesting in solidarity with neighbouring Mali, whose citizens are angry at the West African economic regional bloc, ECOWAS, which imposed sanctions on the country after the military government delayed this year’s elections.
Burkina Faso’s protest comes amid an escalation in attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group that has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people.
The worsening security situation has led to street protests calling for Kabore to step down.
Nearly 12,000 people were displaced within two weeks in December, according to the United Nations.
Four French soldiers were also wounded during a joint operation with Burkina Faso’s military. This is the first time French soldiers have been injured in the country since two men were killed in 2019 during a hostage release operation, Pascal Ianni, spokesman for the chief of defence for the French armed forces, told the AP.
France has some 5,000 soldiers in the region but until now has had minimal involvement in Burkina Faso compared with Niger or Mali.
This is the second government crackdown on protests since November, which comes after the government shut down access to Facebook last week citing security reasons and after arresting 15 people for allegedly plotting a coup.
As tensions mount, the government is struggling to stem the violence. Last month, the president fired his prime minister and replaced most of the cabinet.
The government’s national security arm is also said to be preparing to reopen negotiations with the armed rebels, according to a military official and a former soldier who did not want to be identified. The last time the government negotiated secret ceasefire talks with the rebels was around the 2020 presidential elections when the fighting subsided for several months.
But locals say it is too late for talks and that the country is being overrun by armed groups that control swaths of land, plant their flags and make people abide by their interpretation of Islamic law.
”They just come and are squeezing people [out of their homes] and there is no [government] strategy,” said Ousmane Amirou Dicko, the emir of Liptako. For the first time since the conflict, he said he no longer feels comfortable driving from the capital to his home in the Sahel.