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.
On Friday, several officers went on state television to announce they had ousted Damiba, who himself had led a putsch in January that overthrew the country’s democratically elected president.
The soldiers accused him of failing to crack down on attacks that left more than 40% of the country under the control of Islamic extremist groups.
Damiba’s resignation was later confirmed by state television, which said that Captain Ibrahim Traore had been officially named head of state.
Religious leaders who helped negotiate a solution said the junta leader had given seven conditions.
These included a guarantee of security for his allies in the military and “a guarantee of his security and rights.”
He also demanded that those taking power respect the pledge he had given to West Africa’s regional bloc for a return to civilian rule within two years.
Just a day earlier, Damiba said he had no intention of giving up power and urged the mutinous leaders to “come to their senses” to avoid violence.
Damiba could not be reached for comment. A close family member told Reuters he left the country on Sunday.
Ouagadougou was mostly calm on Sunday after sporadic gunfire across the capital throughout Saturday between opposing army factions.
On Saturday, 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.
France was the colonial power in Burkina Faso.
Residents of Ouagadougou stand outside the French embassy which was set on fire.
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.”
Following Damiba’s resignation, the new leaders called on the public to “desist from any act of violence and vandalism” especially those against the French Embassy or the French military base.
The crisis in Burkina Faso has sparked international concern, with the US State Department and the UN secretary-general condemning 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.
The Islamist insurgency spread to Bukina Faso in 2015 from neighboring Mali.
While the original coup accused then-elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore of failing to beat back jihadist fighters, the insurgency has raged on.
Thousands have died and about two million have been displaced by the fighting over the past seven years.
mm, dvv/sms (AFP, Reuters)