Image credit enca via Burkina24. I think this is from September.
Proving that it is an ill wind indeed that doesn’t blow somebody some good, Burkina24 is reporting that a group of armed men tried to take over the government arsenal in Yimdi, at the western edge of Ouagadougou. This is where the heavy weapons recovered from the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) after last September’s coup were stored. According to unnamed security sources, the culprits were ex-members of the RSP who had not taken up their new assignments and had been in hiding since the coup failed. The security forces have the situation in hand, or so they say. In any case, I’m not hearing any firing now and life in town appears to be going on as normal. The bad guys were presumably taking advantage of the fact that the security forces are distracted with a huge anti-terrorism operation right now. Or else this is entirely coincidental.
But anyway, the reaction of the gendarmerie to the initial outbreak of shooting on Friday (to lock down their base and prepare for a possible coup) was not entirely foolish. They were just off by a couple of days. Presumably, they had some intelligence that something was in the wind, just not what they got on Friday.
I went out to the embassy yesterday, where there was a town hall meeting for the American community. Just as after the September coup, Ambassador Mushingi and his staff attempted to calm fears and stomp on rumors (hear rumors, anyway). The embassy folks did a pretty good job. As a non-official American living here, I get the impression that the embassy cares about my welfare and is doing its best to help me be safe. Takeaways for me:
- The embassy’s emergency communication system still doesn’t work. It reflects the communication system for the country, which rapidly becomes overwhelmed in emergencies. Nothing to be done about it, apparently.
- My assumption that there were only three attackers is apparently correct, though there may have been other support people like drivers, logistical support, surveillance, and so on involved; that is why the government is still checking cars at the departure points from town. That said, I went through the checkpoint on Wednesday in both directions without being questioned in any way. If the people who are fleeing are light-skinned, the lesson here is that they should travel on bicycles and they will be invisible to the gendarmes =:>
- US military and diplomatic personnel were involved in the recapture of the hotel in a support role. Apparently, all the white guys with guns pictured on various news sources charging into the hotel were French, as I heard at first. Reports to the contrary in both local news and CNN are incorrect. American personnel assisted in the escape of American citizens and others from the hotel and restaurants. A couple of young men who were among the injured were at the meeting to thank their rescuers, hobbling around on crutches with bandages and casts.
On the way out of the embassy, I managed to drop the front wheel of my bike in the gap between two concrete slabs that cover a drainage ditch. It was a spectacular tumble. Luckily, I wasn’t going too fast, so the only damage was to my dignity.