The mystery remains in Burkina Faso, since the announcement, Tuesday, January 11, of the arrest of several soldiers suspected of preparing a « Project to destabilize the institutions of the Republic », according to the press release from the military prosecutor’s office, “By information of a member of the band”. During the week, the gendarmerie made further arrests.
In total, fifteen people were arrested, « Two officers, seven non-commissioned officers, one non-commissioned member and five civilians », announced, Thursday 13, the Minister of the Armies, Aimé Barthélémy Simporé. Two civilians and one soldier were released after the first hearings and twelve people are still in preventive detention « For the purposes of the investigation », added the Minister, without giving further details.
Was the group of soldiers preparing for a putsch? Did the security services prefer to anticipate a draft coup in the making? Nothing filters on the side of the Burkinabé authorities. « We let justice do its work, no leak should compromise the investigation », said a source within the gendarmerie.
« Respected and appreciated »
In Burkina Faso, this still fragmented information hardly surprised, as rumors of a coup d’état have persisted since a series of demonstrations against the authorities in November 2021. A new march is scheduled for January 22 in the capital, Ouagadougou , while the population is overwhelmed by the worsening violence in the country. Since 2015, attacks attributed to jihadist armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have killed more than 2,000 and forced 1.6 million people to flee their homes.
Of the soldiers arrested, only one name has filtered, that of the « Highest ranking », Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, confirms a security source. Aged in his forties, he was the corps chief of the 12e commando infantry regiment, based in Ouahigouya, in the north of the country. The senior officer was relieved of his post in December and was awaiting reassignment following an attack on a military detachment in Inata, in the north, in mid-November. This massacre, the bloodiest to date against the army, had officially killed fifty-seven.
In the ranks, Lt. Col. Zoungrana was known to be a seasoned combatant and a « Man in the field », according to our information. “He defended many positions on the front line, entrusts a soldier who carried out a mission with him in the North. He was respected and appreciated by the soldiers. « A close source affirms that the officer did not hesitate to denounce the difficult living conditions of the troops and sometimes took decisions, « Without the approval of his hierarchy ».
In the barracks, the discontent has continued to mount since the tragedy of Inata, which had brought to light serious dysfunctions in the food supply and logistics of the security forces deployed on the ground. Before the attack, the head of the detachment had appealed for help to his hierarchy, reporting lack of food to the point of being forced to hunt while awaiting relief.
On November 27, thousands of people demonstrated in several cities across the country to denounce the« Incapacity » power to stem the violence and demand the resignation of the Head of State. For the first time in the country, the Burkinabé government suspended access to mobile Internet for eight days, for « Security reasons ».
In December, five civil society leaders were given suspended sentences of six to twelve months for « Illegal demonstration ». Faced with popular anger, the president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, carried out a series of dismissals within the army and appointed a new prime minister.
Monday afternoon, the day before the arrests, the Internet connection was again suspended for nearly fifteen hours, according to the NGO NetBlocks, without any explanation being given by the authorities. « We ask the national opinion to stick to official information and to stand out from everything that circulates in the press and on social networks », insisted the Minister of the Armed Forces on Thursday.
While waiting for the results of the investigation, the vagueness persists on the real motivations of the group of soldiers arrested. “Were they frustrated, did they want to take advantage of an opportunity? asks a Burkinabé analyst, or do they pay the costs of rivalries between military officials? «