Captain Ibrahim Traore has been appointed as president of Burkina Faso after Paul-Henri Damiba was removed in the West African country’s second coup in less than nine months.
The Sahel country plunged into political turmoil on September 30 after a group of officers decided to remove Damiba due to his inability to deal with a worsening armed uprising, dissolved the transitional government and suspended the constitution.
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Traore has been appointed as “Head of State, Supreme Head of the Armed Forces”, according to an official statement read out on national television by a spokesman for the military government, Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.
The statement said Traore would now be the “guarantor of national independence, territorial integrity… and continuity of the State”.
On Sunday, Damiba agreed to step down after army officers announced his deposition. He fled to Togo.
In January this year, Damiba together with the armed forces had launched a coup against President Roch Kabore and appointed himself transitional head of state.
He vowed to make security the country’s top priority.
Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of violence attributed to rebel fighters allied to both al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) armed group, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing two million.
‘Long live Russia-Burkina cooperation’
Meanwhile, delegates from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conducted a fact-finding mission on Tuesday and held meetings with influential religious and traditional leaders and Traore.
Traore said the ECOWAS visit was to “make contact with the new transition authorities” as part of regional support for Burkina Faso.
The coup was followed by protests against France, which colonised Burkina Faso in the past, and the emergence of Russian flags among demonstrators, leading to speculations that the new leader may forge close ties with Moscow.
Protesters used slogans that included “France get out”, “No to ECOWAS interference”, and “Long live Russia-Burkina cooperation”.
The United States has warned the army of the risks of allying with Russia, saying they condemned “any attempt to exacerbate the current situation in Burkina Faso”.
“We strongly encourage the new transitional government to adhere to the agreed-upon timeline for a return to a democratically elected, civilian-led government,” a Department of State spokesman said earlier this week.
Traore has previously said he would stand by a pledge that Damiba gave ECOWAS for restoring civilian rule by July 2024.
On Saturday, the African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the “unconstitutional change of government” and called on the military to “refrain from any acts of violence or threats to the civilian population, civil liberties, human rights”.
He also called for the restoration of the constitutional order by July next year “at the latest”.