the reasons for the overthrow of the putschist Paul-Henri Damiba

Lt. Col. Damiba, who came to power in January following a coup, agreed to resign on Sunday following the new coup led by Captain Traoré. The former head of the transitional government is paying for his lack of success in the fight against the jihadists, but also for an attitude that is considered too forgiving towards the clan of former President Compaoré.

Finally, without clashes, power is changing in Burkina Faso. A refugee in Lomé, Togo, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba agreed to resign on Sunday October 2nd, leaving his chair to the young Captain Ibrahim Traoré, aged 34, who until then commanded the Kaya Artillery Regiment in the north of the island country-led country.

Throughout the day, General Staff Headquarters negotiated to find a peaceful solution, while the black scenario of a confrontation between the new coup plotters and those who remained loyal to the former interim president took on.

However, in order to ratify his departure, the ousted putschist Paul-Henri Damiba made conditions: amnesty for him, his relatives and the soldiers attached to him, the pursuit of national reconciliation or even the observance of deadlines should enable a return to the constitutional order by June 1st at the latest July 2024.

In a press release, a spokesman for the putschists announced that “Captain Traoré will be responsible for carrying out the day-to-day affairs of the state pending the swearing-in of the President of Faso, who has been appointed by the nation’s vital forces.” Information confirmed by the interested party himself on the antenna of RFI. The latter promised “assises in less than a month” to “appoint an interim president” and said he had no preferences for a civilian or military president.

Divorce within the military

Priority of priorities for the new government: restoring order and security in a state that has lost control of more than 40% of its territory in the face of incursions by jihadist groups, despite Colonel Damiba’s promises to prioritize the fight against terrorism . Since their putsch on Friday, the putschists have also justified their actions with “the continuous deterioration of the security situation”.

“A rift has emerged between Colonel Damiba and the population, with a significant deterioration in security, few results in the fight against jihadism and a total lack of noticeable changes in the daily life of the population,” analyzes Caroline Roussy, research director at the Institute for International and Strategic Relationships (Iris).

In the north of the country, cities like Djibo have been under siege by armed Islamist groups for several months, leading to dramatic food shortages. A humanitarian convoy sent to bring aid to the population was attacked by members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islam and Muslim Support Group last week, killing 11 Burkinabe soldiers.

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

In recent months, dozens of soldiers have lost their lives in similar attacks, prompting deep discontent among troops deployed in the field.

“Friday’s coup revealed “a certain division within the army between a military hierarchy that is not on the front lines and continues to be gentrified, and soldiers who felt they were being abandoned in the field,” assures the political scientist at the University of Ouagadougou, Cheickna Yaranangoré, interviewed by Le Monde newspaper.

The “tainted” character by Thomas Sankara

Adding to this division within the army was the suspicion of much of public opinion following the arrival on Burkinabe soil in July of former President Blaise Compaoré, who was hounded from the streets in 2014. Paul-Henri Damiba wanted to consolidate “national reconciliation”. to be able to take better action against jihadist violence.

While Blaise Compaoré’s supporters welcomed a clear gesture of political détente, many saw it as a denial of justice “in the land of honest men”: Three months earlier, the former president had been sentenced to life imprisonment in exile on Côte d’Ivoire in absentia for the assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara.

>> For further reading: Sankara process: what remains of pan-Africanism, which the African revolutionary leader defends?

“Thomas Sankara remains the icon and the unsurpassable figure who has been besmirched once again. The law was not respected and at that time 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 after the coup in January, figures from the old regime, which fell in 2014, were appointed to key positions. For its part, the Presidency has tried to appease public opinion by ensuring that the process of national reconciliation “is not aimed at impunity”, without succeeding in quenching popular anger.

What role for Russia?

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

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

>> See also: anti-French sentiment, “best catalyst for street mobilizations”

Since January’s coup, diplomats have worried that Russia could gain a foothold in Burkina Faso. Alexandre Ivanov, a close confidant of the Kremlin in CAR, said at the time he was ready to “share” the “experience” of Russian “instructors” training Burkina Faso’s army.

Has the Kremlin played on the fault lines within the Burkinabe army, between advocates of intensive cooperation with France, such as Lt. Col. Damiba, and those tempted by cooperation with other countries, including Russia?

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

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