Burkina Faso’s army has announced it has deposed President Roch Kabore, dissolved the government and the national assembly, and suspended the constitution, seizing control of the country after two days of unrest at army camps in the capital.
The announcement, signed on Monday by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and read by another officer on state television, said the takeover had been carried out without violence and those detained were in a secure location. The country’s borders have also been closed, it added.
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The statement was made in the name of a previously unheard of entity, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, according to its French language acronym.
“MPSR, which includes all sections of the army, has decided to end President Kabore’s post today,” it said.
It cited the deterioration of the security situation and what it described as Kabore’s inability to unite the nation and effectively respond to the challenges it faces.
The statement said the MPSR would re-establish “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”, adding that a nationwide nightly curfew would be enforced.
The army broadcast came after two days of confusion and fear in the capital Ouagadougou, where heavy gunfire erupted at army camps on Sunday, with soldiers demanding more support for their fight against armed groups.
President Kabore’s whereabouts was not immediately known.
Security sources earlier gave conflicting accounts of Kabore’s situation, with some saying he was being detained by the coup organisers and others saying forces loyal to him had taken him to a secure location.
Earlier, Kabore’s party said he had survived an assassination attempt, but gave no details. Several armoured vehicles belonging to the presidential fleet could be seen near Kabore’s residence on Monday, riddled with bullets. One was spattered with blood.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he “strongly condemns any attempted takeover of government by the force of arms”, calling the events a “coup”.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about developments in Burkina Faso, and urged a swift return to civilian rule.
“We condemn these acts and call on those responsible to deescalate the situation, prevent harm to President Kaboré and any other members of his government in detention, and return to civilian-led government and constitutional order,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “We acknowledge the tremendous stress on Burkinabé society and security forces, but urge military officers to step back, return to their barracks, and address their concerns through dialogue.”
Before the army statement, the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS both condemned what they called an attempted coup, saying they held the military responsible for Kabore’s safety.
The landlocked country, one of West Africa’s poorest despite being a gold producer, has experienced numerous coups since independence from France in 1960.
Kabore – in power since 2015 and re-elected in 2020 – had faced waves of protests in recent months amid frustration about killings of civilians and soldiers by armed groups, some of whom have links to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said Damiba has support from many soldiers in Burkina Faso’s army who have been involved in fighting armed groups.
“He’s someone that’s been on the front lines and seen the casualties caused by the war going on in this region of the borders of Mali, Burkina and Niger,” said Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal.
“He had written a book about questioning the situation between West African armies and armed groups in the area.”
Haque said the chaos in Burkina Faso is playing right into the hands of these armed groups, who favour a government that is not made up of elected officials.
“That is what they have been trying to fight off – a democratically elected government in Ouagadougou,” he said. “At the backdrop of this is the lack of ability from the former deposed president in trying to deal with the ongoing security situation.”
Burkina Faso joins the ranks of several states in the region that are now under military rule. Mali, Guinea, and Chad have seen coups in recent years.
Adama Gaye, a Senegalese political commentator, told Al Jazeera that “the failure to govern” is at the heart of these recent events.
“Anybody who has been monitoring the evolution of Burkina Faso expected this to happen – the [writing was] on the wall, clearly,” Gaye said, about the military moves on Monday.