"The Coup Belt"
Burkina Faso crowd celebrates West Africa’s latest coup
OUAGADOUGOU, Jan 25 (Reuters) - More than 1,000 people gathered in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Tuesday in support of a coup that a day earlier ousted President Roch Kabore, dissolved government, suspended the constitution and closed borders.
The latest in a long history of coups in West Africa comes amid an increasingly bloody Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions across the Sahel region.
Soldiers announced they had overthrown Kabore on Monday, a move condemned internationally but welcomed by some at home tired of widespread insecurity, alleged corruption and deep poverty.
The crowd gathered in Ouagadougou’s national square to play live music, blow horns and dance. A Reuters reporter saw a group burning a French flag, a sign of growing frustration about the military role the former colonial power still plays in the region.
“ECOWAS doesn’t care about us, and the international community only wants to condemn,” said demonstrator Armel Ouedraogo, referring to West Africa’s regional political bloc.
“This is what we want.”
Burkina Faso’s rural north and east have been badly hit by Islamist violence. Attacks on civilians and the armed forces, including the killing of 49 gendarmes at a security post in November, prompted violent protests calling for Kabore’s ouster.
The putchists, called the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) and led by a lieutenant colonel called Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, said Kabore failed to unite the country or ensure security.
On Monday, they presented him with a hand-written resignation letter, which he signed.
“In the interests of the nation, following events that took place since yesterday, I have decided to resign from my role as president of Burkina Faso,” said the letter, confirmed by numerous sources.
Kabore’s whereabouts were unknown on Tuesday. The MPSR has said he was detained at a secure location. Vehicles belonging to the presidential fleet were seen riddled with bullets near Kabore’s residence on Monday.
The United States, the United Nations, ECOWAS and the G5 group of Sahel nations all condemned the coup.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the situation had appeared calm in the last few hours and that he had been informed Kabore was “in good health” and not being threatened.
The MPSR said it would propose a calendar for a return to constitutional order “within a reasonable time frame, after consultations with various sections of the nation.”
West African armies have staged another four coups in the last 18 months, in Mali, Guinea and Chad.
That has raised worries about a return to the post-independence decades in the 1960s when frequent putches across West and Central Africa saw the region dubbed “The Coup Belt”.
By Anne Mimault and Thiam Ndiaga
(Reporting by Anne Mimault and Thiam Ndiaga Additional reporting by Ange Aboa in Abidjan; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Cooper Inveen and Edward McAllister; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
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