Burkina Faso Bishops urge military junta to focus on common good
By Lisa Zengarini
The Catholic Bishops of Burkina Faso have warned the new military government in power in Ouagadougou that it will be its duty to respond to the deep aspirations of the Burkinabe people, recalling “that political authority must be at the service of the common good.”
Military coup of 24 January
On 24 January, mutinous soldiers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba announced they had deposed the democratically elected President Roch Kaboré, and that Parliament had been dissolved and the Constitution suspended.
Damiba, the leader of the newly established Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR), has presented himself as an expert in countering terrorism.
While the takeover sparked international condemnation, it was welcomed by many Burkinabe citizens amid growing discontent over Kaboré's alledged failure to curb the Islamist insurgency in the country. Hundreds of people took to the the streets in Ouagadougou on Tuesday to express their support to the coup.
Bishops "taking note" of changes
Following a meeting with other local religious leaders on January 26, Burkinabe Bishops said they “take note” of the recent developments, but warn that these “abrupt and unconstitutional changes” still pose questions as to whether they will solve the country’s problems.
“If the security challenge is the primary motivation for these events, there are other issues that need to be dealt with, including the return of displaced people to their homes, national reconciliation, economic challenges and many other issues that require the participation of all," they said.
Responding to the needs of people
The Bishops therefore urged the new authorities to take to heart the need to respond to the aspirations of the people of Burkina Faso, also asking them “to guarantee the safety, physical integrity and dignity of those arrested" during the coup.
Praying for peace
In the face of the new situation and uncertainty, they invite the Burkinabe people to “pray insistently”, asking God "to be enlightened and to obtain his Spirit of wisdom" so that the country can "advance towards a definitive end of the crisis and lasting peace.”
Finally, the Bishop asked for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and of Saint Joseph, so that the country may seek "reconciliation, justice and true peace."
Islamist insurgents in Sahel
Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been fighting armed campaigns by guerillas linked to al-Qaeda and and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) from neighbouring Mali. Local security forces and civilians have been the primary victims of Islamist attacks, which have risen to over 1,000 in 2021, more than double the previous year.
Violence and insecurity has displaced over 1.4 million people, accordind to UNHCR, and has resulted in Kaboré losing the confidence of Burkinabe citizens. People’s frustration over the deteriorating security situation reached its peak in June 2021, after the killing of 160 civilians in Solhan, on the eastern border with Niger, which was the worst attack since 2015.
Kabore’s leadership was further weakened after another attack on a gendarmerie post in the northern town of Inata in which 49 officers and four civilians were killed.
The recent coup in Burkina Faso is the fourth in a series of recent military takeovers in West and Central Africa, amidst growing security threats by armed Islamist groups in the Sahel region.