Police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters in Burkina: AFP
Police in Burkina Faso fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters at an unsanctioned anti-government rally in the capital on Saturday, an AFP journalist reported.
The crowds had wanted to demonstrate against the failure of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to quell jihadist violence that has engulfed the country, but city authorities banned the gathering.
Anti-riot police fired tear gas to prevent the demonstrators from gathering for the rally in a square in the centre of Ouagadougou, where substantial police and security forces had been deployed and all shops closed.
Angry youths erected makeshift barricades and burned tyres in several neighbourhoods in an effort to block police movement.
One of the protesters, 28-year-old Fabrice Sawadogo, said that “after seven years of failure to prevent the terrorist attacks… it is time to ask the government to go.”
The “incompetent” administration “has to admit it has failed,” he said.
An alliance of three groups called the November 27 Coalition had called for people to take to the streets on Saturday “in a peaceful atmosphere to denounce growing insecurity and demand the departure” of Kabore.
A spokesman for the group, Moussa Konate, said that it was also planning to hold protests in the nation’s second city of Bobo Dioulasso and other cities.
But other civil society groups distanced themselves from the protests, refusing, they said, “to be complicit with those who want to push the country into chaos”.
The government said it had decided “to extend a suspension of mobile internet for 96 hours from Wednesday” following a four-day outage that it said was necessary for “security reasons.”
– Mounting anger –
Kabore has been facing mounting anger over failures to stem a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali.
Groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group have plagued the landlocked Sahel nation since 2015, killing about 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes.
An attack on November 14 saw hundreds of fighters storm a gendarmerie camp at Inata in the north of the country, killing 53 police and four others.
It was the biggest daily loss among the security forces in the history of the insurgency.
In a nationwide address late Thursday, Kabore vowed to address “dysfunctions” hampering the country’s security forces.
“We have to end the unacceptable dysfunctions which are sapping the morale of our fighting troops and hampering their effectiveness in the fight against armed terrorist groups,” he said.
“Our soldiers should not be abandoned as a result of bureaucracy or clearly culpable negligence.”
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world and its armed forces are ill-equipped against the highly mobile jihadist groups. AFP