Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore promised to end “dysfunction” within the military in a speech on Thursday night, as the nation braced for more protests against worsening insecurity.
Three Burkina Faso soldiers died and 11 militants were killed during an attack on the troops on Wednesday, the latest of three attacks since 14 November that have killed over 60 security forces and more than a dozen civilians.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of capital Ouagadougou last week, demanding Kabore resign for failing to rein in militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who have waged a four-year insurgency.
Opponents urged people to stage fresh protests on Saturday, and schools were shut across the country in anticipation of unrest.
“We must put an end to the unacceptable dysfunction that is sapping the morale of our combat troops and hampering their capacity to fight armed terrorist groups,” Kabore said in a televised address.
He said disciplinary measures would follow an inquiry into the worst recent attack on troops, at a gendarmerie post in Inata, where personnel had reportedly run out of food for weeks.
He also pledged to launch an anti-corruption drive, and said military chiefs needed to be closer to troops on the ground.
The UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel said on Thursday that the situation in Burkina Faso was concerning, particularly in a region that has seen three military takeovers since the start of the year.
“I appeal to the wisdom of civil society and other actors to prevent a country like Burkina … from falling into a crisis like what is happening elsewhere,” Mahamat Saleh Annadif told a news conference.
Some of the anger in Burkina Faso last week was directed against former colonial power France, which has deployed thousands of soldiers in the West Africa Sahel region to combat the militants.
Hundreds of people in the city of Kaya massed over the weekend to block a convoy of French logistics and armoured vehicles on its way to neighbouring Niger. The convoy has still not been able to leave Burkina Faso.