3 protesters wounded by French soldiers in Burkina Faso
KAYA, Burkina Faso (AP) — Three protesters were injured by French soldiers in the town of Kaya in Burkina Faso Saturday during the third day of a civilian blockade against a French military convoy en route to Niger, several protesters said.
Protesters are upset about the former colonial power’s involvement in the West African country’s five-year fight against jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State, which has left thousands dead and displaced more than 1.4 million people.
Several protestors in Kaya told The Associated Press the French soldiers tried to disperse the crowds by firing warning shots into the ground, but three people were hit in the legs.
“Today they shot at us with heavy weapons. They first shot in the air and after they shot and wounded people. Is that normal?” said protester Mahamadi Sawadogo. “You’re in our country, even though you colonized Africans there are things you must not do.”
The blockade is the latest in a series of protests across the conflict-riddled nation that began in June and picked up last week after at least 50 gendarmes were killed in the Sahel’s Soum province, the deadliest single attack on the security forces in recent memory. Earlier this month the opposition gave the president a one-month ultimatum to control security or it would organize protests to demand his resignation. A protest is scheduled for Nov. 24.
While France has some 5,000 troops in the region, it has a more limited presence in Burkina Faso at the request of the government and the fact that people are blaming the French for the degradation of security points to a kind of unrest and opposition that goes well beyond France’s actual involvement in the country, said Andrew Lebovich, a policy fellow, at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“It also shows how the ongoing and worsening insecurity is leading to fairly widespread discontent that is impacting the government, and is likely to get worse,” he said.
On Saturday evening, a few hundred protesters crowded in front of the blockade near the city’s entrance. The French convoy had pulled onto land off the main road, hidden from view with one French armored personnel carrier near the side of the road. Protesters said they won’t allow them through until the French army lets people see what’s inside the trucks, with some people accusing them of arming the jihadists.
Burkina Faso’s government said it was in close talks with the governor of the Center-North region and was closely following the situation, said communications minister Ousseni Tamboura.
The French military and the French embassy in Burkina Faso didn’t respond to comment.