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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Protesters set alight French embassy in Burkina Faso, accuse French of ‘harbouring’ ousted president Paul-Henri Damiba

Protesters have attacked the French embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital after supporters of the new coup leader accused France of harbouring the ousted interim president, Paul-Henri Damiba, as Burkina Faso experiences its second military takeover in eight months.

French authorities have denied these allegations, saying that they are not harbouring or protecting Damiba.

Hundreds of citizens, some waving Russian flags and those supporting Burkina Faso’s self-declared military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, gathered in protest in front of the French embassy on Saturday and Sunday throwing stones and burning tires and debris on Saturday and early on Sunday.

Security forces used tear gas against protesters outside the French embassy after Burkina Faso’s leader was ousted on Friday, Politico reported.

Traore has accepted a conditional resignation offered by Damiba to avoid further violence after Friday’s coup.

After heavy gunfire was heard around the capital on Friday, Traore, in a statement broadcast late that day, announced the suspension of the constitution and the charter of the transition, and the dissolution of the government of transition. He also imposed a curfew from 9pm to 5am.

A close family member told Reuters on Saturday that the ousted president had left the country on Sunday.

Gunfire rang out across Burkina Faso’s capital on Saturday and a fire broke out at the French embassy as Traore accused Damiba of staging a counter-offensive after being ousted, a Reuters report said.

Comments by a junta spokesperson on Saturday sparked an outburst of anger in Ouagadougou, the capital, according to The Guardian.

“Damiba has tried to retreat to the Kamboinsin French military base to prepare a counter-offensive in order to sow divide amongst our defence and security forces,” said Lt Jean Baptiste Kabre, reading a statement on behalf of the new junta leadership, reported The Guardian.

But according to Traore, order was being restored after violent protests against the French embassy and days of fighting as his faction moved to topple the government.

According to reports, splits have emerged within the army, with many soldiers appearing to seek Russian support as the influence of former colonial power France wanes.

At least three separate videos shared on online on Saturday and Sunday showed soldiers atop armoured personnel carriers, waving Russian flags, while the crowd around them chanted “Russia! Russia!”. Reuters has not verified the videos.

Traore’s team urged people to halt attacks on the French embassy, targeted by protesters after an officer said France had sheltered Damiba at a French military base in the country.

The French foreign ministry denied the base had hosted Damiba after his ousting on Friday.

Damiba also denied he was at the base, saying the reports were a deliberate manipulation of public opinion, a Reuters report said.

International media reported that Ouagadougou was mostly calm on Sunday after sporadic gunfire between opposing army factions across the capital on Saturday.

Burkina Faso is among five Sahel countries where French troops have been assisting local forces against jihadist insurgencies, though French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans last year to start withdrawing French forces.

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