the reasons for the fall of the coup plotter Paul-Henri Damiba

Coming to power in January after a coup, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba agreed to resign on Sunday after the new coup led by Captain Traoré. The former head of the transition is paying for his lack of results in the fight against the jihadists but also for an attitude considered too conciliatory with the clan of former president Compaoré.

Finally, without confrontation, power changes hands in Burkina Faso. Taking refuge in Lomé, Togo, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba agreed to resign on Sunday, October 2, leaving his chair to the young captain Ibrahim Traoré, 34, who until then led the body of the Kaya artillery regiment, in the north of the country.

Throughout the day, negotiations were held at the headquarters of the General Staff to find a peaceful solution, while the black scenario was outlined as a confrontation between the new coup plotters and those who remain faithful to the former president of the transition.

To ratify his departure, the ousted coup plotter Paul-Henri Damiba, however, set conditions: amnesty for himself, his relatives and the soldiers who had joined him, the search for national reconciliation or even the respect of the deadlines that would allow the return to constitutional order. no later than July 1, 2024.

In a press release, a spokesman for the coup plotters announced that “Captain Traoré is responsible for the execution of current state affairs until the swearing-in of the President of Faso appointed by the active forces of the nation.” Information confirmed by the interested party in the RFI antenna. The latter promised “sizes in less than a month” to “appoint a transitional president” specifying that he had no preferences for a civilian or military president.

Divorce within the armed forces

Priority of priorities for the new government: to restore order and security in a state that has lost control of more than 40% of its territory due to the push of jihadist groups, despite Colonel Damiba’s promises to give priority to the fight against terrorism. Since his coup on Friday, the putschists had also justified his action by “the continuing deterioration of the security situation.”

“A fracture has been created between Colonel Damiba and the population with a significant deterioration in security, few results in the fight against jihadism and a total absence of tangible changes in the day-to-day life of the population”, analyzes Caroline Roussy, research director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

In the north of the country, towns such as Djibo have been besieged by armed Islamist groups for several months, causing severe food shortages. A humanitarian convoy, which was meant to bring relief to the population, was attacked last week by members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islam and Muslim Support Group, killing 11 Burkinabe soldiers.

“The attack on the Djibo convoy was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” summarizes Wasim Nasr, a journalist for France 24. “So we talked a lot about the lack of means made available” by the army, recalls the specialist in jihadist movements.

In recent months, dozens of soldiers have been killed in similar attacks, creating deep resentment among troops engaged in the field.

“Friday’s coup revealed” a certain division within the army between a military hierarchy that is not at the front and has continued to gentrify and soldiers who, in the countryside, have had the feeling of having been abandoned, “says the science researcher politicians from the University of Ouagadougou, Cheickna Yaranangoré, interviewed by the newspaper Le Monde.

The “stained” figure of Thomas Sankara

Added to this divorce within the army was the suspicion of a large part of public opinion after the arrival, in July, on Burkina Faso of former president Blaise Compaoré, chased down the street in 2014. Paul-Henri Damiba wanted to consolidate the “reconciliation national”. to better fight against jihadist violence.

If Blaise Compaoré’s supporters welcomed a strong gesture to ease political tensions, many saw it as a denial of justice “in the land of honest men”: three months earlier, the exiled former president in Côte d’Ivoire had been sentenced to life in absentia for the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

>> To read: Sankara trial: what remains of the Pan-Africanism defended by the African revolutionary leader?

“Thomas Sankara remains the icon and unsurpassed figure who has once again been sullied. The law was not respected and at that moment there was a divorce between the population and Damiba that lost all credibility. It ended up being seen as a symptom of an endemic system of corruption”, says Caroline Roussy.

Especially since personalities from the former regime that fell in 2014 were appointed to key positions after the January coup. For its part, the presidency had tried to appease public opinion, assuring that the national reconciliation process “was not made to consecrate impunity,” without managing to quell the population’s anger.

What role for Russia?

Following the coup by the new coup plotters, Russian flags were waved in the streets of Ouagadougou, while the French embassy was attacked twice over the weekend by hostile protesters, fueling suspicions of a Moscow-orchestrated destabilization campaign.

Rumors circulating on social media that Colonel Damiba had taken refuge in the French Kamboinsin base in Ouagadougou helped fan the embers of anti-French sentiment.

>> See also: Anti-French sentiment, “best catalyst for street demonstrations”

Since the January coup, diplomats have worried that Russia will gain a foothold in Burkina Faso. At the time, Alexandre Ivanov, a close Kremlin aide active in the Central African Republic, said he was ready to “share the experience” of Russian “instructors” to train the Burkina Faso army.

Le Kremlin at-il joué des lignes de fractures au sein de l’armée burkinabè, entre les partisans d’une approfondie coopération avec la France comme le lieutenant-colonel Damiba et ceux tentés par des coopérations avec d’autres pays, dont Russia?

“We cannot rule out any hypothesis”, explains Caroline Roussy. “We see that there is a desire to diversify partnerships. In any case, all this is part of a sub-regional dynamic that is not unrelated to what is happening in Mali and elsewhere”.

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