Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba led a mutiny that ousted President Roch Kaboré last month.He blamed the president for failing to contain violence by Islamist militants. He made his first national speech since taking power on the eve of an emergency summit of West African leaders, called in response to the coup.
The regional bloc, Ecowas, has already suspended Burkina Faso because of the military takeover.
The 15-member bloc also called for the immediate release from house arrest of the ousted president and other detained officials. Ecowas agreed to send a delegation to meet the coup leaders in the capital, Ouagadougou.
At the start of the virtual summit, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “The resurgence of coup d’etats in our region is in direct violation of our democratic tenets. It represents a threat to peace, security and stability in West-Africa.”
Burkina Faso is the third West African country to witness a military takeover in the past year. Guinea and Mali have both had sanctions imposed on them by Ecowas to press them to return to constitutional order.
Wearing a red beret and army fatigues in his national address, Lt-Col Damiba, 41, said: “When the conditions are right, according to the deadline that our people will define in all sovereignty, I commit to a return to a normal constitutional order.”
He said he will meet representatives of various sections of society to agree on a roadmap for reform. He added that Burkina Faso needed international partners “more than ever”, following condemnation of the coup.”I call on the international community to support our country so it can exit this crisis as soon as possible.”
He did not specify which part of the international community he wanted support from – the coup comes at a time when Russia is competing with France to help West African countries tackle a growing Islamist insurgency. France has thousands of troops in West Africa helping its former colonies Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger tackle jihadist forces.
But the French presence is proving increasingly unpopular in the region and President Emmanuel Macron has started to reduce French troop numbers. Mali has already turned to Russia to fill the vacuum, sparking a bitter row with France, and a group of Russian mercenaries has offered their services to Burkina Faso’s new leaders.
In his speech, Lt-Col Damiba said the fight against jihadists would be his priority and promised to recapture rural areas, allowing the 1.5 million people who have fled their homes to return.
Before seizing power, he had been at the forefront of the fight against Islamist militants and wrote a book on the topic last year.
Similar troubles in neighbouring Mali led to a military coup in May 2021 – one that was broadly welcomed by the public.
Author: Dr. Funmi Beckley