Burkina Faso president calls on army to remain ‘neutral’
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Tuesday implored the country’s army to respect the “rule of law”.
The impoverished, landlocked west African country has been blighted by numerous coups and mutinies since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Ten days ago the government claimed it had thwarted another coup plot earlier in the month led by troops loyal to former president Blaise Compaore, who was chased from power two years ago following a popular revolt.
“Democracy needs a strong and republican army, an army that conforms to the rules and to the demands of the rule of law, and which doesn’t act as if in a state of emergency,” Kabore told soldiers gathered in the capital Ouagadougou for celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the country’s armed forces (FAN).
Kabore called on the army to maintain “an attitude of neutrality” and to stay out of the “political sphere”, saying it must “serve the government, which.. draws its legitimacy from a public electorate”.
On October 21, Burkina’s Interior Minister Simon Compaore — no relation to the ousted former president — said the government had foiled a “vast conspiracy” to attack the presidential palace.
Some 30 troops from the ex-president’s security unit also planned to free comrades detained during a failed September 2015 coup against the transitional government that took power after Compaore’s fall, he said.
Authorities uncovered the plot on October 8, arresting four people who turned out to be former members of Compaore’s presidential guard.
The 2015 coup bid was staged by presidential guard troops loyal to Compaore but thwarted by street protesters and the army, which attacked their barracks.
News of the thwarted October coup came just days after Burkina Faso authorities announced the release of Colonel Mamadou Bamba, who had read out the coup plotters’ statements on television at the time.
Since independence, the former French colony of Haute Volta, renamed Burkina Faso in 1984, has experienced eight successful coups d’etat.
Of its nine presidents, only three have been civilians while the other six were putschist officers.
Kabore also used the ceremony to urge vigilance against the “permanent threat of terrorism” in a country whose estimated 17-million population is roughly 60 percent Muslim, according to a 2006 census, with Christianity and traditional beliefs also widely practised.