Behind the scenes of strong African news this week

Three weeks after seizing power in a coup, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was sworn in as President of Burkina Faso by the Constitutional Council. “I swear before the people of Burkina Faso (…) to preserve, respect, enforce and defend the Constitution, the fundamental law and the laws.” With these words, dressed in military uniform, he takes the oath before the Council. The ceremony is broadcast on national television.

Claude Guibal, Senior Reporter for Radio France International, and Gilles Gallinaro, Senior Reporting Specialist for Radio France, are returning from Ouagadougou.

Gilles Gallinaro and Claude Guibal with Parfait, their assistant in Burkina Faso.  (GILE GALLINARO / RADIO FRANCE)

Lieutenant Colonel Damiba, a young man in his forties, seized power on 24 January in Ouagadougou after two days of riots in several barracks in the country. He overthrows President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kabore. He chides him for being powerless in the face of the jihadist violence that has raged in Burkina for almost seven years now.

Surprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba was considered close to the deposed president, who appointed him head of the military district responsible for ensuring the security of the capital.

Three weeks after the coup, Ouagadougou returned to normal life.  (GILE GALLINARO / RADIO FRANCE)

And paradoxically, it was in this part of Africa, where anti-French sentiment is growing, that Lieutenant Colonel Damiba was trained in France. He graduated from the Paris military school, graduated from the 24th well as The promotion of the military school, in addition, she took the courses of the criminalist Alain Bauer at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts.

If the Barkhan is visible in Malian territory, the Kabore government camouflaged the French troops, who were limited to special commandos. After the coup, Damiba openly asked Barkhane to conduct military operations on the border with Benin.

In June 2021, he published an essay titled: West African Armies and Terrorism: Vague Answers? His observations of the state of the army in the face of the jihadists are then especially harsh. He regrets that the local armies are too weak, “editor’s faults” and Western partners “required” corn “secret”.

In Ouagadougou, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba is sworn in on 16 February 2022 and becomes the new President of Burkina Faso.  (AFP / OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF BURKINA FASO)

Lieutenant Colonel Damida will have to face the anti-French sentiment present in Mali, where regiments present for nine years are seen as an occupying army, but anxiety is just as deep in Burkina. How could a well-equipped army capable of probing the depths of the underground not be done after almost 10 years of conflict with jihadists on motorcycles?

And social networks go there with their conspiracy refrains: “They are arming the jihadists to keep their presence safe and to ensure the preservation of raw materials for European interests.”

The population of Ouagadougou is confident that the junta will regain control over the country.  (GILE GALLINARO / RADIO FRANCE)

On the ground, Claude Guibal and Gilles Gallinaro often heard this flood of criticism. But what distinguished the reporters of Radio France was disappointment and poverty. After the first attacks, casualties were heavy. More than 2,000 dead and more than a thousand people forced to flee their homes.

From year to year, the military cemeteries of young soldiers who died in the fight against terrorism are expanding. What do all these fallen bodies lead to? And what terrorists to fight? Islamists or criminals who want to chart the course of drug and human trafficking from the Gulf of Guinea to North Africa?

Ouagadougou Military Cemetery, where more than 500 young soldiers who died in the fight against terrorism are buried.  (GILE GALLINARO / RADIO FRANCE)

Burkina Faso has lost a life together. Ethnic groups and communities that shared the daily life of the country look at each other with distrust, unity is broken. No one talks to each other anymore, and the fault lines are tearing society apart.

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