Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has called on the mutinous soldiers to “lay down their arms” hours after local media reported that he had been arrested by the army, without his whereabouts being known for the time being.
“Our nation is going through difficult times. We must secure our democratic advances at this time,” Kaboré said through his Twitter account, without specifying where he is or if he is in the hands of the mutineers.
“I call on those who have taken up arms to lay down their arms in the best interest of the nation. We must resolve our differences through dialogue and listening,” said the President.
Sources quoted by Burkinabe portal Infowakat said earlier in the day that Kaboré had been arrested and transferred to Lamizana camp, prompting Radio Omega to report that the presidential guard had disarmed and the president had left the presidential palace.
Sources quoted by radio station Radio France Internationale have also confirmed the arrest, while statements made to the outlet by an official have highlighted that “there will be a statement in the next few hours”. The mutinous soldiers had previously demanded Kaboré’s resignation.
Faced with this situation, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has shown its “great concern” about the situation and, in a statement published on its social networks, has spoken of an “attempted coup”.
“ECOWAS condemns this extremely serious act which, in accordance with relevant regulations, will not be tolerated,” he said, before blaming the military for “the physical integrity” of the president.
Because of this, he called on the mutineers to “return to their military barracks, maintain a republican position, and favor dialogue with the authorities to resolve problems.”
For its part, the French embassy in Ouagadougou has said the situation is “confusing” and recommended its citizens in the country “to avoid non-essential travel during the day and not to move at night”.
“The two Air France flights scheduled for this Monday afternoon have been cancelled. French schools will remain closed on Tuesday January 25,” he added on his website, before adding that there would be new “advice” in the coming hours.
The information about Kaboré’s arrest emerged hours after the presidential family left the country amid unrest at several bases around the capital, Ouagadougou, during which General Gilbert Diendéré, former chief of former President Blaise Compaoré’s cabinet, was convicted of a coup attempt 2015 and also on trial in connection with the assassination of African revolutionary icon and former 1980s President Thomas Sankara.
The government had imposed a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5.30 a.m. (local time) on Sunday while the mutineers asserted they were not seeking a power grab but were demanding more resources and the immediate dismissal of the mutineer agency’s National Intelligence Agency leadership for its inability to to fight the jihadism that has plagued the country for years.
The mutiny came about two weeks after authorities announced the arrest of eight soldiers, including a commander, in connection with an alleged plot to “destabilize” the country’s institutions. They also suspended access to Facebook last week for unspecified security reasons.
Burkina Faso Prime Minister Lassina Zerbo acknowledged in early January that the country was in a “extremely worrying” security situation and advocated making “national reconciliation” one of the lines of action to restore peace and security, after this instability had receded, more than 1.5 million people had fled since 2015.
The African country in general has seen a significant increase in attacks since 2015. These, the work of both al-Qaeda affiliate and Islamic State affiliate in the region, have also contributed to the increase in inter-community violence, allowing self-defense groups to flourish.