The impoverished Sahel nation was in turmoil again over the weekend when Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba – who took power in January – was ousted by his newly revived rival Traoré, who led a faction of disgruntled junior officers.
It was the latest coup in the Sahel, many of which, like Burkina Faso, are battling a growing Islamist insurgency.
Traoré was named “Head of State, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces”, according to the official statement read on national television by the spokesman for the ruling junta, Captain Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.
The press release indicates that Traoré will henceforth be “the guarantor of national independence, territorial integrity… and the continuity of the State”.
Damiba fled to Togo after the two-day standoff, which was defused by religious and community leaders.
Burkina is grappling with a seven-year jihadist campaign that has claimed thousands of lives, forced nearly two million people to flee and removed more than a third of the country from government control.
Rising anger within the armed forces led to Damiba’s coup against the elected president in January.
Damiba had proclaimed himself interim head of state and vowed to make security the country’s top priority – but after a brief lull, attacks resumed, killing hundreds.
TENSIONS IN BURKINA FASO
Delegates from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) completed a fact-finding mission on Tuesday, meeting with religious and traditional leaders and Traore.
Traore said the ECOWAS visit was aimed at “getting in touch with the new transitional authorities” as part of the support Burkina Faso has received from the region.
There is speculation that Burkina’s new leader could follow other fragile regimes in Francophone Africa and forge close ties with Moscow at the expense of France, the region’s former colonial power and traditional ally.
The dramatic takeover coincided with fierce anti-French protests and the sudden appearance of Russian flags among protesters.
In the streets the slogans of the demonstrators were “France out”, “No to the interference of ECOWAS” and “Long live cooperation between Russia and Burkina”.
The United States warned the junta of the risks of an alliance with Russia and said it condemned “any attempt to aggravate the current situation in Burkina Faso”.
“We strongly encourage the new interim government to adhere to the agreed timetable for the return to a democratically elected, civilian-led government,” a State Department spokesperson said earlier this week.
Traore has previously said he will honor a promise made by Damiba to ECOWAS for the restoration of civilian rule by July 2024.