Ousted Burkina Faso leader offers resignation, say mediators

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was overthrown on Friday some nine months after taking power in his own coup.

Soldiers loyal to Captain Ibrahim Traore are cheered in the streets of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on Sunday
Soldiers loyal to Captain Ibrahim Traore are cheered in the streets of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on Sunday

Burkina Faso’s ousted coup leader has offered his resignation as long as his security and other conditions are met, and the new junta leader who overthrew him has accepted the deal, religious leaders mediating the West African nation’s latest political crisis have said.

A junta spokesman later announced on state television that their leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, had been officially named head of state following the Friday coup that ousted Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo 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.

Captain Ibrahim Traore supporters wave a Russian flag in the streets of Ouagadougou
Captain Ibrahim Traore supporters wave a Russian flag, as some who back him have called on Burkina Faso’s government to seek Russian support (Sophie Garcia/AP)

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

Along with agreeing not to harm or prosecute him, Lt Col Damiba also asked Capt Traore and the new junta leadership to respect the commitments already made to the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

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

Captain Ibrahim Traore supporters cheer with Russian flags in the streets of Ouagadougou
Capt Traore supporters cheer with Russian flags in the streets of Ouagadougou (Kilaye Bationo/AP)

“President Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba proposed his own resignation in order to avoid clashes,” said Hamidou Yameogo, a spokesman for the mediation efforts.

Capt Traore accepted the conditions, religious leaders said, but there was no immediate confirmation by Lt Col Damiba himself of an official resignation. His whereabouts have remained unknown since the coup on Friday night.

Amid the mediation, the new junta leadership also called for an end to the unrest.

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

Captain Ibrahim Traore supporters in the streets of Ouagadougou, as the country's new junta leadership calls for calm after the French embassy and other buildings were attacked
The country’s new junta leadership called for calm after the French embassy and other buildings were attacked (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 vehemently denied the allegation, but soon protesters with torches thronged the perimeter of the French embassy in Ouagadougou.

Saturday’s violence was condemned by the French foreign ministry, which denied any involvement in the rapidly developing events.

French institutes in Ouagadougou and the country’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, had also been targeted and French citizens were urged to be very cautious.

Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho reads a statement in a studio in Ougadougou on Friday evening, as members of Burkina Faso’s army seized control of state television declaring that the country’s coup leader-turned-president, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba had been overthrown
Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho called on people to ‘desist from any act of violence and vandalism’ (RTB via AP)

“The situation is very volatile in Burkina Faso,” a French spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Lt Col Damiba came to power in January promising to secure the country from jihadi violence. But the situation only deteriorated as jihadis imposed blockades on 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 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.

To some in Burkina Faso’s military, Lt Col Damiba was also seen as too cosy with former coloniser France, which maintains a military presence in Africa’s Sahel region to help countries fight Islamic extremists.

UN General Assembly Burkina Faso
Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba at the United Nations General Assembly last month (Julia Nikhinson/AP)

Some who support the new coup leader, Capt Traore, have called on Burkina Faso’s government to seek Russian support instead.

Supporters of Capt Traore were seen cheering and waving Russian flags outside the state broadcaster on Sunday.

In neighbouring Mali, the coup leader has invited Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help with security, a move than has drawn global condemnation and accusations of human rights abuses.

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