Burkina Faso poised for political change after coup turmoil
Burkina Faso's new junta leader Capitain Ibrahim Traore leaves the General Sangoule Lamizana military camp in Ouagadougou on October 8, 2022, following the funerals of 27 soldiers killed as they escorted 207-vehicles in a convoy in Gaskinde.
The ambush of the convoy, claimed by Al-Qaeda, officially killed 37 people, including 27 soldiers. Seventy truck drivers remain missing, according to their union. The disaster has become a symbol of the state's inability to secure remote countryside areas and protect local people, 10 years into a bloody jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region. Five days later, Burkina was rocked its second coup in less than nine months -- the fifth in two years in the landlocked West African region. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)
(AFP) - Political parties, social and religious groups and representatives of the security forces gather Friday to chart the next phase in Burkina Faso's future after the country's latest coup.
The forum in the capital Ouagadougou will take place two weeks after the jihadist-torn Sahel state was rocked by its second military takeover in less than nine months.
A 34-year-old captain, Ibrahim Traore, leading a faction of disgruntled junior officers, forced out Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.
Damiba had seized power only in January, toppling the country's last elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
The talks opening on Friday are scheduled to appoint a successor to Damiba as transitional president -- a head of state who will rule in the interim before power is eventually returned to civilians.
Supporters of Traore are clamouring for him to be that man, although he has outwardly said he does not want the job.
The head of the forum's organising committee, Colonel Celestin Compaore, said the conference "will examine and adopt (a) charter of transition, appoint a transitional president in line with the charter and receive any proposals for the proper execution of the charter."
- Troubled country -
One of the world's poorest nations, Burkina Faso has a long history of coups since independence from France in 1960.
The latest takeovers are rooted in unrest within army ranks over a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.
Thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million have been displaced.
Barely a week goes by without the announcement of a bloody attack on the poorly-equipped security forces. More than a third of the country lies outside government control.
Traore said Burkina would uphold a pledge that Damiba made to the West African bloc ECOWAS involving new elections and a return to civilian government by July 2024 at the latest.
But like Damiba before him, Traore defended the coup on the grounds that the authorities were failing to do enough against the jihadists.
The coup announcement on September 30 said it was time to "refocus the transition (interim military rule) on the security emergency".
Damiba fled to neighbouring Benin on October 2, after a weekend of violent protests that also targeted the French embassy and cultural centre and saw demonstrators raise Russian flags.
- Vocal support -
Traore said he would only stay at the helm to carry out "current business" but at meetings in Ouagadougou and Burkina's second city, Bobo-Dioulasso, supporters have been clamouring for him to be appointed to the top job.
"Captain Ibrahim Traore must fully implement the reason for which he came," said Oscar Seraphin Ky, one of his backers.
France, a close ally in Burkina's fight against the jihadists, has watched the new turmoil with deep concern, especially the anti-French sentiment.
A coup in Mali in 2020 sparked friction with France and led to the country's military entwinement with Russia. French troops that had been fighting jihadists in Mali for nine years pulled out this year after the row escalated.
The French ambassador to Burkina Faso, Luc Hallade, has advised French citizens to limit their movements on Friday to "what is strictly necessary... out of concern for new protest movements".
According to local pollster Apidon, 53 percent of those questioned would prefer to have Traore in charge.
Among his most ardent supporters, the scale of Burkina's security crisis makes it crucial to have a military man in charge, it found.
© Agence France-Presse