Burkina Faso’s author-chief coup leader begins a new chapter in the country’s history

Burkina Faso’s new strongman, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, has had first-hand experience of the brutal jihadist uprising he cites as a pretext to seize power.

Damiba is leading a junta that on Monday overthrew the country’s elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who was facing general anger over his failure to stop the crisis.

Since the first jihadist attacks in 2015, about 2,000 people have died, with the army, police and a civilian volunteer militia bearing the burden, according to an AFP duty.

In a country with 21 million people, about 1.5 million people are internally displaced, according to the national emergency authority CONASUR.

Damiba, 41, is the commander of the 3rd Military Region, which covers eastern Burkina Faso – one of the worst-hit areas.

“He is an example of a good soldier, a tough commander who has been on the front lines with his men,” said a military source, who praised Damiba’s “commitment.”

Before the coup, Damiba made no secret of his criticism of prevailing strategies to roll back the insurgency, publishing a book in June last year entitled “West African Armies and Terrorism: Uncertain Answers?”

On Monday, he was part of a group of uniformed men who declared that they had taken power, even though he did not say anything, and left the job as an announcer to a captain, Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo.

“Deterioration of security” Ouedraogo read out a statement signed by Damiba as president of the Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR), as the junta calls itself.

The statement whipped up “the continuing deterioration of the security situation, which threatens the very foundations of our nation” and pointed out Kabore’s “clear inability to unite the Burkina Faso people to deal with the situation effectively”.

Damiba trained at the Georges Namoano Military Academy in Po in southern Burkina.

Many of its alumni served in the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), the former presidential guard for Kabore’s predecessor, Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown by a popular uprising in 2014.

Damiba led the RSP from 2003-2011, although he was also among those opposed to a 2015 coup by Compaore’s right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere.

As regimental commander from 2019 to 2021, he gained first-hand experience of the problems with Burkina Faso’s poorly trained and ill-equipped security forces against ruthless and highly mobile jihadists.

In November last year, the country was stunned when 53 gendarmes were slaughtered when their base was flooded by hundreds of attackers.

The gendarmes had been about to be relieved several days earlier and had appealed for help before the attack and said they were short of food and ammunition.

Kabore shook the military and Damiba was sent to lead the 3rd military region.

French bands Like many military officers in the French-speaking Sahel, Damiba has had close ties to France.

He was specially trained at the prestigious Military School of Paris.

The Paris company Editions Les Trois Colonnes, which published his book last year, says that Damiba also took a “master’s degree in forensic science” at the CNAM academy in the French capital, and has also received a diploma in “defense management, leadership and strategy”.

“He is part of the elite, although he has also achieved results on the ground – he has led and commanded a certain number of units,” said Oumarou Paul Koalaga, a local political analyst.

“These are officers with brains.”


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