Police in Burkina Faso fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters at an unsanctioned anti-government rally in the capital on Saturday as anger over jihadist violence mounted in the impoverished country.
City authorities had banned the gathering, which aimed to voice frustration with the failure of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to stem the bloodshed.
Anti-riot police fired tear gas to prevent the demonstrators from gathering in a square in the centre of Ouagadougou, where substantial police and security forces had been deployed and all shops closed.
Angry youths erected makeshift barricades and burned tyres in several neighbourhoods, including in front of the ruling party headquarters, in an effort to block police movement.
A mob attacked the car of AFP’s journalist in the city.
“The crowd set upon us, throwing stones,” Olympia de Maismont said. “They wanted to block our car and yelled ‘France, we don’t want you here!’”
“We managed to escape, but just barely.”
Police also dispersed demonstrators with tear gas in the nation’s second city of Bobo Dioulasso in the west.
One of the protesters, 28-year-old Fabrice Sawadogo, said that “after seven years of failure to prevent the terrorist attacks… it is time to ask the government to go.”
The “incompetent” administration “has to admit it has failed”, he said.
An alliance of three groups called the November 27 Coalition had called for people to take to the streets on Saturday “in a peaceful atmosphere to denounce growing insecurity and demand the departure” of Kabore.
But other civil society groups distanced themselves from the protests, refusing, they said, “to be complicit with those who want to push the country into chaos”.
The government said it had decided “to extend a suspension of mobile internet for 96 hours from Wednesday” following a four-day outage that it said was necessary for “security reasons.”
Kabore has faced mounting anger over failures to stem a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali.
Groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group have plagued the landlocked Sahel nation since 2015, killing about 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes.
An attack on November 14 saw hundreds of fighters storm a gendarmerie camp at Inata in the north of the country, killing 53 police and four others.
It was the biggest daily loss among the security forces in the history of the insurgency.
In a nationwide speech late Thursday, Kabore vowed to address “dysfunctions” hampering the security forces.
“We have to end the unacceptable dysfunctions which are sapping the morale of our fighting troops and hampering their effectiveness in the fight against armed terrorist groups,” he said.
“Our soldiers should not be abandoned as a result of bureaucracy or clearly culpable negligence.”
Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries and its armed forces are ill-equipped to tackle highly mobile jihadists.