Ousted Burkina Faso leader leaves country for Togo after coup

Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba had offered his resignation as long as his security and other conditions were met.

UN General Assembly Burkina Faso
UN General Assembly Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s ousted coup leader has left the country for Togo, two days after he himself was overthrown in a coup, while the new junta urged citizens not to loot or vandalise.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba’s departure was confirmed by two diplomats who spoke to the Associated Press. It was not known whether Togo was his final destination.

Earlier on Sunday, religious leaders who had mediated between the factions said Lt Col Damiba had offered his resignation as long as his security and other conditions were met.

Burkina Faso-Crisis
Coup spokesman Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho reads a statement in a studio in Ougadougou (RTB/AP)

A junta representative later announced on state television that their leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, had officially been named head of state after the Friday coup that ousted Lt Col Damiba.

Their power grab marked Burkina Faso’s second military coup this year, deepening fears that the political chaos could divert attention from an Islamic insurgency whose violence has killed thousands and forced two million to flee their homes.

It followed unrest in Ouagadougou, the capital, on Saturday when mobs attacked the French embassy and other French-related sites, wrongly believing they were sheltering Lt Col Damiba.

Along with agreeing not to harm or prosecute him, he asked Capt Traore and the new junta leadership to respect the commitments already made to the west African regional bloc Ecowas.

Burkina Faso Crisis
Supporters of Captain Ibrahim Traore in the streets of Ouagadougou (Kilaye Bationo/AP)

Lt Col Damiba, who came to power in a coup in January, had recently reached an agreement to hold an election by 2024.

In a statement late on Sunday, Ecowas said it would send a team of mediators to Ouagadougou on Monday, including former Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou.

The statement, signed by Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, noted that Lt Col Damiba had resigned “in order to avoid a violent confrontation and possible bloodshed”.

Earlier in the day, the new junta leadership had called for an end to the unrest that engulfed Ouagadouou after Friday night’s coup.

In a statement broadcast on state television, junta representative Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho called on people to “desist from any act of violence and vandalism”, especially against the French embassy or French military base.

Burkina Faso Crisis
Soldiers walk in the streets of Ouagadougou (Kilaye Bationo/AP)

Anti-French sentiment rose sharply after the new junta alleged that interim president Lt Col Damiba was sheltering at a French military base following his removal. France denied the allegation, but protesters with torches thronged the perimeter of the embassy in Ouagadougou.

Saturday’s violence was condemned by the French Foreign Ministry, which denied any involvement in the events. French Institutes in Ouagadougou and the country’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, were also targeted and French citizens were urged to be cautious.

Lt Col Damiba came to power in January promising to secure the country from jihadi violence, but the situation only deteriorated as jihadis blockaded towns and intensified attacks.

Last week, at least 11 soldiers were killed and 50 civilians went missing after a supply convoy was attacked by gunmen in the Gaskinde commune in the Sahel. The group of officers led by Capt Traore said on Friday that Lt Col Damiba had failed and was being removed.

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