On Thursday, disgruntled soldiers in Burkina Faso began what some are calling protests, and what others are calling a mutiny. The disturbances, centered in the capital city of Ouagadougou, started because soldiers were not receiving their pay. On Thursday and Friday nights, soldiers “shot into the air, stole cars and looted shops.” Dozens were wounded, and cases of rape have been reported. The government has attempted to impose a curfew, and President Blaise Compaore has sacked his cabinet, but today merchants staged a protest of their own:
Hundreds of traders in Burkina Faso have taken to the streets of Ouagadougou, setting fire to the headquarters of the country’s ruling party in protest after mutinous soldiers looted their shops.
Merchants on Saturday ransacked the National Assembly, the trade ministry and other public buildings in the capital, according to a witness quoted by the Reuters news agency.
“We are angry against the soldiers who have looted our stores, and also against the government that is doing nothing to stop the looting,” Abdoulaye, a mobile phone trader who declined to give his second name, said.
I’ve been seeing conflicting reports about whether Compaore has left Ouagadougou or not. One source says that he did leave but is now back.
Different groups in Burkina Faso have different grievances against the government, from the students who protested police brutality in February and March to the soldiers decrying lack of pay to the merchants who are angry at the government for not stopping the soldiers from looting. With social groups raging both at each and at the government, the situation is becoming serious in Burkina Faso.
I’ve been thinking today about whether the protests in Burkina Faso bear a resemblance to the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, and elsewhere. I can’t decide – a soldiers’ mutiny, after all, differs from youth protests. If Compaore falls, though, it will be time to start talking about sub-Saharan African revolutions.