Issued on: Altered:
Political parties, social and religious groups and representatives of the security forces gathered on Friday to chart the next stage in Burkina Faso’s future after the latest coup.
The forum in the capital Ouagadougou took place two weeks after the jihadist-torn Sahel state was rocked by its second military takeover in less than nine months.
A 34-year-old captain, Ibrahim Traore, who led a faction of disgruntled junior officers, forced Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba out.
Damiba had only seized power in January, overthrowing the country’s last elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.
Talks that started on Friday are scheduled to appoint a successor to Damiba as transitional president – a head of state who will rule in the meantime before power is finally returned to the citizens.
Traoré supporters are calling out that he wants to be that man, although he has said outwardly that he does not want the job.
The head of the forum’s organizing committee, Colonel Celestin Compaore, said the conference “will examine and adopt a transitional charter, appoint a transitional chairperson in accordance with the charter and receive all proposals for the proper implementation of the charter.”
Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, has a long history of coups d’état since independence from France in 1960.
The latest takeovers are rooted in military unrest over a jihadist insurgency that invaded from neighboring Mali in 2015.
Thousands of people have died and nearly 2 million people have been displaced.
Barely a week goes by without the announcement of a bloody attack on the ill-equipped security forces. More than a third of the country is outside the control of the government.
Traore said Burkina would keep a promise Damiba made to the West African bloc ECOWAS, with new elections and a return to civilian rule by July 2024.
But like Damiba before him, Traore defended the coup because the authorities were not doing enough against the jihadists.
The coup announcement on September 30 said it was time to “refocus the transition (interim military rule) on the security emergency”.
Damiba fled the country on October 2, following a weekend of violent protests that also targeted the French embassy and cultural center where protesters hoisted Russian flags.
Traore said he would remain at the helm only to run “current affairs”, but at rallies in Ouagadougou and Burkina’s second city, Bobo-Dioulasso, supporters have been pushing for a top-ranking appointment.
“Captain Ibrahim Traore must fully implement the reason he came,” said Oscar Seraphin Ky, one of his backers.
France, a close ally in Burkina’s fight against the jihadists, has watched with great concern the new turmoil, especially anti-French sentiment.
A coup in Mali in 2020 sparked friction with France and led to the country’s military entanglement with Russia. French troops who fought jihadists in Mali for nine years withdrew this year after the feud escalated.
French Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Luc Hallade, advised French citizens to limit their movements on Friday to “what is strictly necessary…out of concern for new protest movements”.
According to local pollster Apidon, 53 percent of those polled would rather have Traore in charge.
Among its most ardent supporters, the magnitude of Burkina’s security crisis makes it crucial to have a soldier at the head, Apidon said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)