The army’s removal and detention of Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore after two days of unrest has sparked some celebrations among anti-government protesters, but also stoked international concern following what was the fourth military coup in West and Central Africa over the past year.
Late on Monday, a band of soldiers calling themselves the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba appeared on state television to declare that they were in control of the county. The government and the national assembly were dissolved and the constitution suspended, they said, as they also announced an overnight curfew.
The whereabouts of Kabore, who won a second term in 2020 elections, remain unknown. A military spokesman said the army had seized power “without any physical violence against those arrested, who are being held in a safe place, with respect for their dignity”.
International reaction was swift.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement he “strongly condemns any attempted takeover of government by the force of arms”, calling the events a “coup”.
“Coup leaders must lay down their arms & ensure the safety of the President and the protection of the country’s institutions,” he said in a Twitter post.
I am following developments in Burkina Faso with deep concern & strongly condemn any attempt to take over a government by the force of arms.
Coup leaders must lay down their arms & ensure the safety of the President and the protection of the country’s institutions.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 24, 2022
Even before the army’s statement, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc and the African Union both condemned what they called an “attempted coup”, saying they held the soldiers responsible for Kabore’s safety.
“ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the political and security situation in Burkina Faso, characterised since Sunday 23 January by an attempted coup d’état,” the organisation said in a statement.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, “firmly condemned the coup d’état attempt against the democratically elected president”.
Mahamat called “on the national army and security forces of the country to strictly adhere to their republican vocation, namely the defence of the internal and external security of the country”, a statement said.
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 Kabore 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.
“The United States is closely monitoring this fluid situation, and we call for restraint by all actors as we carefully review the events on the ground for any potential impact on our assistance.”
The United States condemns the detention of Burkina Faso’s President Kaboré and calls for de-escalation and a return to constitutional order. https://t.co/CQaOBwWAhF
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) January 25, 2022
Meanwhile, the European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell said the bloc was “very worried about the evolution of the situation in Burkina Faso.”
“We call for the respect of the constitutional order and the release of President Kabore,” Borrell said.
For its part, Luxembourg’s foreign ministry said it was following developments in Burkina Faso “with great concern” and condemned the dismissal of the president and the suspension of the constitution.
“The challenges of the [Burkina Faso] must be solved through dialogue and not through arms,” it said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde joined ECOWAS in “condemning the attempted coup d’état in Burkina Faso” and urged all parties to find a peaceful resolution through dialogue.
Embassies in Burkina Faso have issued alerts and urged citizens to be cautious. The US embassy in Ouagadougou announced it would remain closed to the public on Tuesday due to the ongoing security situation.
It added that a mandatory curfew had been instituted from 9:00pm to 5:00am as of January 24. “The Embassy has not received any indication that the curfew has been lifted,” it said.
Land and air border travel have also been suspended, the embassy said, starting 11:59 pm on January 24.