'Great sadness' for artists after French venue ransacked in Burkina coup

'Great sadness' for artists after French venue ransacked in Burkina coup

The French Institute in Ouagadougou was just one of the former colonial power's buildings targeted
The French Institute in Ouagadougou was just one of the former colonial power's buildings targeted. Photo: OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP
Source: AFP

The day after Burkina Faso's latest coup, protesters attacked the French Institute, wrecking not just a symbol of the country's former colonial power but also a valued showcase for artists and free expression.

Demonstrators left charred walls, smashed windows and books strewn across the floor of the cultural centre in Ouagadougou, Burkina's capital.

Standing in front of a pile of paintings, artist Ali Ouedraogo said it was "a great sadness" to see the Institute in such a state.

"We've been coming to this place for years -- it's become a second home for us," he said. It is "a loss for Burkinabe, especially artists."

"This is the work of real monsters," said William Somda, who organises cultural events.

"Nothing today justify the destruction of a venue that is so important to the cultural, academic, professional and artistic world."

PAY ATTENTION: Share your outstanding story with our editors! Please reach us through info@corp.legit.ng!

The Institute was just one of the French buildings targeted during the turmoil, which began on the evening of September 30.

Demonstrators also attacked the French embassy in the capital the Institute in Burkina's second largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso.

They accused Paris -- which has a military presence in the West African country -- of protecting former junta leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who seized power in January before being ousted by junior officers led a 34-year-old captain, Ibrahim Traore.

In a statement read out on national television, the officers said Damiba was suspected to have taken refuge at a French military base "to plan a counteroffensive to stir up trouble in our defence and security forces."

Damiba denied he was at the base but provided no further details about his whereabouts at the time. It later emerged he had fled to neighbouring Togo after a prolonged standoff.

France bluntly denied that it had been harbouring him.

The French Institutes in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso are closed until further notice
The French Institutes in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso are closed until further notice. Photo: OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP
Source: AFP

Anti-French sentiment was palpable on the streets at the height of the turbulence.

Demonstratorschanted: "France out." Some waved Russian flags.

The road leading to the Institute is still littered with broken glass, smashed computers and burnt air conditioning units.

In the entrance hall, there are burnt gates and baggage scanners.

Police have cordoned off the building, AFP saw on Wednesday.

"The damage is enormous," said the centre's manager, Thierry Bambara. "We'll have to wait for a complete assessment before we can put a figure on it."

The centre, a major venue for artists in impoverished Burkina, was extensively damage
The centre, a major venue for artists in impoverished Burkina, was extensively damage. Photo: OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP
Source: AFP

"All the buildings were ransacked," from the centre's language unit to its performance areas, he said.

In the Institute's library, the floor is a clutter of keyboards, CDs, toppled shelves and books covered in soot.

Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 182nd out of 189 nations under the UN's Human Development Index. High-quality concert venues and libraries are rare.

"The ransacking... is a tough blow for us," said Burkinabe musician Kantala. "Our plans are taking a hit -- we're not sure we can find a replacement for what this place offered us."

The Institutes in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso are closed until further notice, according to the French embassy, which has also suspended its services.

Source: AFP

Online view pixel