I had hoped to not have to blog about Burkinabé politics again for a little while. But unfortunately, events have taken a serious turn in Burkina.
The regular military and the RSP agreed on disarmament in their agreement made before the King of the Mossi last Saturday – shown here in a wire service photo from France24, thanks. A number of RSP personnel went to the camp where they were to be reassigned voluntarily, and regular army staff went to the RSP barracks behind the presidential palace, accompanied by a bunch of journalists, and some weapons were handed over. However, a group of RSP men, number unknown, remained in the barracks and are refusing to hand over their weapons. General Diendéré is part of this group and also Djibril Bassoulé, who was a minister under Compaoré and one of the rejected candidates for the presidency.
Now I see where Bassoulé has denied through his lawyer that he is part of or encouraging soldiers to refuse military orders. So maybe their resolve is cracking? Let’s hope so.
The TV showed a very optimistic report of turnover of weapons and of armored vehicles positioned around the barracks, but it now appears that this was exaggerated. Large numbers of weapons including rocket artillery remain in the hands of the rebels. Army units from outside the city have once again entered the city and are taking up positions around the rebel base. American embassy personnel are required to “shelter in place”, and American citizens are urged (by an embassy email Jean – but not I – received an hour or so ago) to exercise caution, maintain good situational awareness, and avoid getting shot at all costs.
From a military standpoint, the position of the rebels appears hopeless. They can certainly hold out in their barracks for some time, but without water or food they will have to give up pretty soon. You don’t need heavy weapons to keep them in there, and the army has plenty of RPG’s and assault rifles. However, on their way down the rebels could probably take quite a bit of the town with them. That’s assuming that their rockets actually work – nobody has given me a good answer as to how operational the military’s heavy equipment is. I don’t think they have had to use it since a short border war with Mali in 1985.
Jean reports that his wife, still in Burkina Faso and in their house in the Ouaga 2000 neighborhood near the presidential palace, reports armored vehicles moving on the main road heading towards the presidential palace and the rebel camp.
And I imagine I’m spending more time in Ghana.