Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has been detained by mutinying soldiers, according to news reports citing security officials.
The reports on Monday came a day after soldiers staged mutinies at several army barracks, prompting fears of a coup in the conflict-hit country.
Later on Sunday, heavy gunfire was also heard near Kabore’s residence in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Several armoured vehicles from the presidential fleet, riddled with bullets, could be seen near the residence on Monday morning. One was splattered with blood.
Two security sources and a West African diplomat told Reuters news agency that Kabore was detained at a military camp. There was no immediate comment by the government, which on Sunday had denied that a coup was underway.
“We just passed the military base where Kabore is alleged to be confined at the moment,” journalist Henry Wilkins reported from Ouagadougou on Monday.
“Traffic is circulating as normal, but there is an unusually high number of military personnel out on the streets around the presidential palace.”
AFP news agency also reported the president had been arrested along with other government officials.
“President Kabore, the head of parliament, and the ministers are effectively in the hands of the soldiers” at the Sangoule Lamizana barracks in the capital, two security officials said.
Two of the rebellious soldiers told The Associated Press by phone early Monday that Kabore was being held “in a safe place”, but would not specify where.
Kabore has led Burkina Faso since being elected in 2015 after a popular uprising overthrew longtime strongman President Blaise Compaore, who was in power for nearly three decades. Kabore was re-elected in November 2020 for another five-year term, but frustration has been growing at his inability to stem the spread of violence across the country.
Attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the armed group ISIL (ISIS) are escalating, killing thousands and displacing more than an estimated 1.5 million people. The military has suffered heavy losses.
Mutinous soldiers told the AP the government was disconnected from its forces in the field, that their colleagues were dying and that they wanted military rule. A man they put on the phone said they were seeking better working conditions for Burkina Faso’s military.
About 100 military personnel have been planning the takeover since August, according to one of the soldiers. The organisers never met in the same location more than twice and always outside the capital, he said. They used messaging apps such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegraph to plan, he added.
Regional analysts say the Kabore government was overstretched, but it is unlikely the mutiny will change anything.
“Burkina Faso’s army is profoundly ill-equipped and unprepared for the war it’s asked to fight. It’s out of its depth. Its frustration with an equally out-of-its-depth government is understandable. Regrettably, this [rebellion] is unlikely to improve anything,” said Michael Shurkin, a former political analyst at the CIA and director of global programmes at 14 North Strategies.
Burkina Faso’s population is already showing signs of supporting a takeover.
“People are tired with this situation of insecurity. Every day people are killed. In Burkina, there are areas that can’t be accessed. We have lost a big part of our territory,” said Jean-Baptiste Ilboudou, a civilian near the military base where gunshots were heard.