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Burkina Faso denies coup amid barracks revolt

By Armel Baily
Burkina Faso Under pressure: President Roch Marc Kabore.  By Ludovic MARIN AFP
JAN 23, 2022 LISTEN
Under pressure: President Roch Marc Kabore. By Ludovic MARIN (AFP)

Gunfire broke out at several army barracks in Burkina Faso on Sunday and internet connections were disrupted, prompting fears of a coup in the notoriously volatile west African state which the government quickly denied.

The unrest comes a little over week after 12 people, including a senior army officer, were arrested on suspicion of planning to "destabilise institutions" the country, which has been rocked by a seven-year jihadist insurgency.

Residents in the Gounghin district in the west of the capital Ouagadougou reported heavy gunfire at the Sangoule Lamizana camp and military prison where an ousted army general is being held.

"Since 1 am, gunfire has been heard here in Gounghin coming from the Sangoule Lamizana camp," a soldier in the area confirmed to AFP.

Local inhabitants said soldiers had come out of the barracks firing in the air and sealed off the area around it.

Commuters on Sunday in Ouagadougou, where gunfire was heard at several military barracks.  By Olympia DE MAISMONT AFP Commuters on Sunday in Ouagadougou, where gunfire was heard at several military barracks. By Olympia DE MAISMONT (AFP)

Shots were heard at the Baby Sy barracks in the south of the capital as well as at an air base near the airport, which was also sealed off by soldiers in balaclavas, according to local residents.

There was also gunfire at barracks in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya, residents there told AFP.

Meanwhile, mobile internet services were down on Sunday morning.

President Roch Marc Kabore's government swiftly denied that there had been a coup.

"Information on social media would have people believe there was an army takeover," government spokesman Alkassoum Maiga said in a statement.

"The government, while acknowledging that there was gunfire in some barracks, denies this information and calls on the public to remain calm."

Defence Minister General Barthelemy Simpore said on nationwide TV that "none of the Republic's institutions has been troubled at the present moment".

He added that there were "localised, limited" incidents "in a few barracks," and that he was investigating.

Police fired tear gas to break up a rally by around 100 people who gathered at a square in central Ouagadougou to show support for the soldiers' revolt, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.

History of coups

The Sangoule Lamizana camp houses a military prison where General Gilbert Diendere -- a former right-hand man to deposed president Blaise Compaore -- is serving a 20-year term for an attempted coup in 2015.

Accused: Diendere at the start of the trial last October into the assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.  By OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT AFP Accused: Diendere at the start of the trial last October into the assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara. By OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT (AFP)

He is also on trial for his alleged part in the 1987 assassination of the country's revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, during a putsch that brought Compaore to power.

Compaore, who was overthrown by a popular uprising in 2014, fled to Ivory Coast, and is being tried in absentia for the assassination.

Earlier this month, the authorities said they had arrested 12 people, including a senior army officer, over a suspected plot to "destabilise institutions" in the country.

The landlocked West African state ranks among the poorest in the world, and has had little stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

Anger at jihadist toll

Burkina Faso.  By  AFP Burkina Faso. By (AFP)

The latest turbulence coincides with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015, overwhelming Burkina's poorly-trained and badly-equipped armed forces.

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.

Anger at Kabore's failure to stem the bloodshed has risen, spilling over into clashes with the security forces.

On Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse banned rallies, arresting dozens.

In Kaya, where many displaced people have moved, residents told AFP that protesters had stormed the headquarters of the ruling People's Movement for Progress party.

On November 27, dozens were wounded when hundreds turned out to protest.

Among the soldiers arrested this month over the plot to "destabilise institutions" was Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, who had been commanding anti-jihadist operations in country's badly hit western region.

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