Mutinous soldiers have detained the president of Burkina Faso after gunfire erupted at military bases across the West African nation, making him the third head of state overthrown in this region in the last eight months, according to a Western official and an army officer in the country.
Authorities initially denied that President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré had been forced into military custody, asserting the situation was calm even as soldiers battled for control of several barracks.
Then the mutineers reached the presidential palace late Sunday, Reuters reported. Kaboré was physically removed from office less than 24 hours after the uprising began, said the Western official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
A Burkinabe counterterrorism officer also confirmed Kaboré’s detention Monday, saying the president “is in good hands.” The officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said soldiers were fed up by what they saw as a lack of support from the top. Violence has steadily worsened since Kaboré took over.
“We need a strong man with clear ideas,” he said.
The apparent ouster followed hundreds of people marching the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, demanding the resignation of Kaboré, who has been in power since 2015.
During his tenure, militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have upended life in the nation of 21 million, rendering much of the countryside ungovernable and driving at least 1.4 million people from their homes. More than 2,000 Burkinabes have died in the violence.
The power grab in Burkina Faso comes after special forces toppled the president of neighboring Guinea in September and military officers ousted the interim leader of Mali last May.
As video captured shots ringing out in the capital Sunday, protesters trashed the headquarters of Kaboré’s ruling party. Another photo showed bullet holes riddling an SUV belonging to the presidency.
Authorities implemented a curfew and ordered schools to shutter.
The government cut phone lines and Internet access, leaving millions in a communications blackout. Hours before his detention, Kaboré drew backlash amid the outage after he tweeted about soccer.
“I express to you the pride of the whole nation,” he wrote to Burkina Faso’s team, which bested Gabon on Sunday in the Africa Cup on Nations, advancing to the quarter-finals in the continent’s largest soccer tournament. “We are all behind you.”