West African nations mull response to Burkina Faso coup
Demonstrators gathering in Ouagadougou to show support to the military hold a picture of Liutenent Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba the leader of the mutiny and of the Patriotic Movement for the Protection and the Restauration (MPSR) on January 25, 2022. (OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP)
(AFP) - West African heads of state on Friday began talks on how to respond to a new coup in Burkina Faso, hours after the military junta there appealed for international support.
Burkina President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was overthrown on Monday by mutineering soldiers on the back of public anger at his failure to stem jihadist violence ravaging the impoverished nation.
Heads of the Economic Community of West African States began a virtual summit at 1000 GMT on their response to the coup, an ECOWAS source said.
The 15-nation bloc has already verbally lashed the overthrow and in the past year and a half has suspended two members where coups have occurred.
On the eve of the summit, the leader of the new junta called for international support.
"Burkina Faso more than ever needs its international partners," Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba said in televised comments, his first since the coup.
"I call on the international community to support our country so it can exit this crisis as soon as possible."
Damiba, 41, is a rising star in the military who commands an eastern region that has been badly hit by jihadists.
On Wednesday, he met ministers of Kabore's government, which like the parliament has been dissolved.
The junta has also suspended the constitution, vowing to re-establish "constitutional order" within a "reasonable time".
Damiba asked ministers not to leave the country without authorisation, and also said he hoped to include all the country in the management of the transitional period, political sources told AFP.
-- Chronic instability --
The coup is the latest bout of turmoil to strike Burkina Faso, a landlocked and poor state that has suffered chronic instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
On Tuesday, ECOWAS issued a statement to say the bloc "firmly condemns" the coup, accusing the military of forcing Kabore to resign "under threat, intimidation and pressure".
Burkina Faso joins two other ECOWAS countries -- Mali and Guinea -- where there have been coups in the past 18 months.
Those two countries have been suspended by the 15-nation bloc, which has also imposed an array of sanctions on them, including measures against individuals.
Kabore, 64, was elected in 2015 following a popular revolt that forced out strongman Blaise Compaore.
He was re-elected in 2020, but the following year faced a wave of anger over the mounting toll from a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali.
- Bloodshed -
Since 2015, some 2,000 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally.
Troops, police and a volunteer civil militia have paid a huge price, raising questions about their leadership, training and equipment in the face of a ruthless, mobile foe.
Some 1.5 million people are internally displaced in a country of 21 million, according to the national disaster management agency CONASUR.
Kabore's well-being and whereabouts have been a key issue since the coup, with the United Nations leading calls for his release.
On Wednesday, a source in his political party, the People's Movement for Progress (MPP) told AFP that the army was holding Kabore in a villa under house arrest.
"President Kabore is physically well, but I cannot say anything about his state of mind," the source said.
"He has a doctor available (and) access to his mobile phone, but under surveillance, obviously."
© Agence France-Presse