Burkina Faso Junta Leader Agrees to Quit After Mutiny

Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba offered his resignation, two days after junior military officers rebelled against his rule. The West African country is experiencing a coup within a coup after January’s military takeover.

Burkina Faso’s junta leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba has agreed to step down, religious leaders said Sunday, after a mutiny within the military left the West African nation in chaos.

The resignation was later confirmed by state television, which said that Captain Ibrahim Traore has been officially named head of state.

The power grab by Traore and several other soldiers marked Burkina Faso’s second coup this year after Damiba led a putsch in January that overthrew the country’s democratically elected president.

On Friday, the officers said they had ousted Damiba, accusing him of failing to crack down on jihadi attacks that left more than 40% of the country under the control of Islamic extremist groups.

But Demiba late Saturday said he had no intention of giving up power and urged the mutinous leaders to “come to their senses” to avoid violence. Just a day later he agreed to resign, subject to seven conditions.

These included a guarantee of security for his allies in the military, “a guarantee of his security and rights” and that those taking power must respect the pledge he had given to West Africa’s regional bloc for a return to civilian rule within two years.

Tear gas fired from French Embassy

Over the weekend, amid unconfirmed reports that Damiba was staging a counteroffensive from a French base, hundreds of Traroe’s supporters protested in front of the French Embassy.

Security forces at the embassy fired tear gas at dozens of protesters on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.

“They led a counteroffensive this morning. Some of the special forces were sent … and also the air base has been manipulated,” Traore told radio station Omega.

Damiba “is believed to have taken refuge in the French base at Kamboinsin in order to plan a counteroffensive to stir up trouble in our defense and security forces,” the junior officers said in a statement read out on national television and signed by Traore.

France was the colonial power in Burkina Faso.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the base had never hosted Damiba and denounced the violence against its embassy.

Damiba also denied he was at the base in his remarks on the presidency’s official Facebook page, calling the claim an attempt “to manipulate opinion.”

Anti-French demonstrators also stoned the French Cultural Center in the town of Bobo-Dioulasso on Saturday.

UN’s Guterres condemns coup

The crisis in Burkina Faso has caused deep concern among foreign leaders.

The US State Department and the UN secretary-general condemned the upheaval.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns any attempt to seize power by the force of arms and calls on all actors to refrain from violence and seek dialogue,” a spokesperson said.

Friday’s events mark the nation’s second coup this year and the latest in the Sahel region, much of which is witnessing a growing Islamist insurgency.

In Burkina Faso alone, nearly 2 million have been displaced due to the rampant insurgency.

(AFP, Reuters)

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