A few days ago, a military coup deposed the President Of Burkina Faso, toppling the Democratic government on grounds of corruption and incompetence of the Democratic Government. Leading this coup is Lt-Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba; who is he and what do you need to know about him?
Damiba was trained by the US and France in Warfare and exceeded his training when he took control over power in Burkina Faso with a coup.
He called himself president just three weeks after celebrating his 41st birthday, making him the latest man in camouflage to overthrow a government; and raising fears that what UN chief António Guterres last year called the “epidemic of coups”
Damiba has the support of the Burkinabe
Holding the grand title of “President of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration”; Lt-Col Damiba forms the West African triumvirate of military rulers – along with Guinea’s charismatic Mamady Doumbouya; who was also born in 1981, and Mali’s bearded Col Assimi Goïta, who is the youngest of the trio, having been born in 1983.
Though they have become political pariahs in much of Africa and the West for seizing power through the barrel of the gun; the trio appear to have significant public support in their countries.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s not a coup,” school teacher Julienne Traore; told AFP news agency as crowds celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou.
“It’s the liberation of a country, which was being governed by people who were incompetent,” the teacher added.
This view was expressed despite the fact that Lt-Col Damiba has neither addressed the nation; nor granted media interviews since seizing power.
A well-connected West African security source told the BBC; “He is not very talkative but when he does talk, you should take him seriously.
“He is a born leader and is very close to the men he commands, rather than keeping his distance from them. For him, results on the grounds are what matters.”
Armies and Terrorism: Uncertain Responses? By Lt-Col Damiba
Lt-Col Damiba also seems to be academically oriented, having authored West African Armies and Terrorism: Uncertain Responses? A book on the biggest crisis facing Burkina Faso, the Islamist insurgency which has left about 2,000 people dead since 2015; and about 300,000 children without education after their schools were forced to close.
In the statement read on his behalf by the captain who announced the coup; Lt-Col Damiba cited the deteriorating security situation as the chief reason for overthrowing Mr Kaboré.
No Half Measures
He turned against the president despite the fact that he had been promoted about seven weeks earlier to lead anti-terrorism operations in Ouagadougou; and in the east of the country, in what was seen as a military shake-up by Mr Kaboré; to tighten his grip on power and to placate troops angered by the killing of more than 50 people, most of them security force members, in November.
The security source said that Lt-Col Damiba’s decision to strike against his former boss did not come as a surprise; as “he is someone who doesn’t do things by half-measures”.
“He sees the issue of jihadist insurgencies as a complex problem, which cannot be solved through military means alone.
“This isn’t an easy thing for a soldier to say but he is someone who says what he thinks,”
Lt-Col Damiba’s background is similar to that of many of Burkina Faso’s military elite; he studied in France at a military academy and a prestigious institution where he got a Master’s in criminal sciences; and served in the presidential guard of the now-exiled Blaise Compaoré who; during his decades-long rule, maintained strong ties with the former colonial power.
Recently Trained in the US
More recently, Lt-Col Damiba received military training from the US, as it increasingly turned its attention to West Africa; to fight militant Islamists who have gained a foothold in the region.
The US Africa Command confirmed to The New York Times that Lt-Col Damiba took part in American military courses and exercises between 2010 and 2020; and received instruction on the law of armed conflict, and respect for human rights.
“He believes that Africa should bear responsibility for its own problems, rather than relying on anybody.”
The jury is out on that – some supporters of Lt-Col Damiba carried Russian flags as they celebrated the coup in Ouagadougou; calling on Russia to help in the fight against the militant Islamists.
They were taking their cue from Mali, where the junta is said to have brought in Russia’s controversial Wagner group to defeat the insurgents; to the chagrin of 15 European nations who – along with Canada – issued a statement in December saying they “deeply regret” the decision to use “already scarce public funds” to pay foreign mercenaries.