Security is getting worse in Burkina Faso, with the deadliest attacks by Islamist militants in the West African country in years on civilians and security forces. People are protesting the failure of Burkinabe and international forces to stop the violence, with some calling for change at the top.
In downtown Ouagadougou early Saturday police fired tear gas into crowds of protesters calling for the resignation of Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kabore.
Around 400-500 people were assembled before the tear gas forced them to disperse. An eerie silence followed.
Journalists were hit with tear gas too, even after identifying themselves as press. One local radio journalist was injured after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.
In recent days, protests have spread across several cities in Burkina Faso.
Demonstrators were angry at what they say is the government’s inability to counter terrorism, after an al-Qaida-linked terror group attacked a military outpost in the north of the country, killing at least 50 military police.
Mamadou Drabo, who is a protest leader, said, “We want the departure of Roch by noon, we want the resignation of Roch, his government and the MPP regime.”
By early Saturday, the police had blocked entrances to the square where protesters were due to meet. Some protesters began shouting at military police, others approached them with their hands up to show their support for the security forces.
Not all demonstrators were peaceful, however. Some attacked a pickup truck carrying members of a local militia known as the Koglweogo. Others set fire to tires and threw rocks at security forces, as well as journalists.
Maman Flora Pascalina is a Burkinabe blogger and activist who goes by the nickname Flo Flo. She said she supports the FDS, the Burkinabe security forces, and therefore Saturday’s protests against the government.
Flo Flo said her heart aches for her people who are dying before her eyes. She can’t stand it, she says. “I’ve thrown myself into this and I fight, night and day for the Burkinabe people, for the FDS,” she added.
Protests against French military intervention in Burkina Faso have also taken place in the last ten days. Demonstrators blocked a French convoy traveling through the country, claiming the soldiers were aiding terrorists.
Many Burkinabes believe in conspiracy theories like this, spread over social media.
Starting November 20, the government shut down mobile internet for eight days, in part to stop the spread of misinformation, but also to suppress protests.
The government came under pressure from lawmakers about its handling of security and the internet shutdown at a special session of the national assembly on Friday. The defense minister, Aime Simpore, voiced support for the shutdown.
He said, “Regretfully, some uses of social networks compromise national security and contribute to the weakening of our country to the point of making it vulnerable.”
Analysts say the threat of protests may force the government to make concessions.
“There’s some sense politically that there was a need to concede something to some of these demands.”
More demonstrations are scheduled for the 10th and 11th of December.