By John Ikani
The President of Burkina Faso, Roch Kaboré, has reportedly been detained by mutinying soldiers.
According to a report by Reuters, the President’s arrest was confirmed by four security sources and a West African diplomat.
Kabore’s whereabouts or situation were unknown as of Monday morning, with conflicting reports circulating among security and diplomatic sources.
Several armoured vehicles of the presidential fleet, riddled with bullets, could be seen near the President’s residence. One was spattered with blood. Residents of the President’s neighbourhood reported heavy gunfire overnight.
Mobile internet services have been disrupted, though fixed-line internet and domestic wi-fi are working. Soldiers have also surrounded the state television headquarters and there was no live programming on Monday.
The developments a day after soldiers staged mutinies at several army barracks, prompting fears of a coup. Later on Sunday, heavy gunfire was also heard near Kabore’s residence in the capital, Ouagadougou.
The unrest also comes a week after 11 soldiers were arrested for allegedly plotting a coup.
Discontent has been growing in Burkina Faso over the government’s failure to defeat an Islamist insurgency in the country since 2015.
That escalated to new highs in November, when 53 people, mainly members of the security forces, were killed by suspected jihadists. And on Saturday, a banned rally to protest against the government’s perceived failure led to dozens of arrests.
The mutinying soldiers made several demands, including the removal of the army’s Chief of Staff and the Head of the Intelligence Service; more troops to be deployed to the front line; and better conditions for the wounded and soldiers’ families.
Similar troubles in neighbouring Mali led to a military coup in May 2021 – one that was broadly welcomed by the public.
ECOWAS and AU reacts
The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, which already has suspended Mali and Guinea in the past 18 months over military takeovers, condemned what it called an attempted coup in Burkina Faso and said it held the military responsible for the physical well-being of President Kabore.
“ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the political and security situation in Burkina Faso, characterised since Sunday January 23 by an attempted coup d’etat,” the organisation said in a statement on Monday.
African Union Commission Chief, Moussa Faki Mahamat also condemned “the attempted coup d’etat against the democratically elected president” in Burkina Faso in a statement on Monday.