West Africa’s governance crisis reached a fever pitch this week amid conflicting reports from Burkina Faso that raised fears of yet another military coup attempt in the region. In the early hours of Friday morning, gunfire and explosions were reported at Camp Baba Sy in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital, as well as in the vicinity of the presidential palace. Access to major government buildings, including the National Assembly and the prime minister’s residence, was reportedly blocked by soldiers.
The state broadcaster briefly went off the air, before abruptly returning without an explanation for the interruption. But the government of Burkina Faso has downplayed rumors of a putsch. In a statement released on Facebook, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, Burkina Faso’s interim head of state, described the “confused situation” as an internal crisis within the armed forces, and called for calm and normalcy to be restored.
Nevertheless, the pattern of events reported across traditional and social media bore a strong resemblance to the country’s last coup in January, when the government of former President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was overthrown, as well as to the other military takeovers that have happened across West Africa in the past two years. Such a development would not necessarily come as a major surprise, either. While many in Burkina Faso initially welcomed the military takeover in January, hoping that the armed forces could turn the country’s deteriorating security and political conditions around, those expectations have yet to be realized.