By Thiam Ndiaga
OUAGADOUGOU – Protesters burned tyres and pillaged a government building in Burkina Faso’s capital on Saturday after police fired tear gas to disperse a march against the state’s failure to stop a wave of violence by Islamist militants.
Activist groups called for renewed protests in response to a recent surge of attacks in the West African country, including one by al Qaeda-linked militants https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/death-toll-attack-burkina-security-post-soars-53-2021-11-17 that killed 49 military police officers and four civilians two weeks ago.
The assault near the northern town of Inata was the deadliest Burkinabe security forces have suffered since an insurgency broke out in 2015 and has fuelled anger against the government and the French military forces that support it.
Since then, there have been scattered protests against President Roch Kabore’s government. On Saturday morning, military police officers launched tear gas canisters to disperse about 100 protesters who were trying to march toward downtown Ouagadougou, the capital, a Reuters reporter said.
Demonstrators in the city of Kaya also prevented the passage of a French military convoy on its way to neighbouring Niger for nearly a week.
In Ouagadougou, protesters erected barricades and burned tyres and trash cans. Some demonstrators later vandalised a government records building across from the mayor’s office, leaving computers and documents in the street.
“Since he (Kabore) is in power, terrorists are spreading desolation in this country and he is incapable of finding a solution to this problem. So we ask for his immediate resignation,” Valentin Yamkoudougou, spokesperson for the “Save Burkina Faso” movement that organised the protest, told Reuters.
Kabore promised in a speech to the nation on Thursday to end “dysfunction” within the military after reports the gendarmes at the base near Inata had run out of food weeks before the attack.
The public’s angry response to the latest attacks has unnerved the authorities, who cut mobile internet access a week ago and refused to authorise Saturday’s demonstration.
The United Nations’ special envoy to West Africa said on Thursday he was concerned about the situation in Burkina Faso and warned against any military takeover, following coups in three neighbouring countries over the past year.