Captain Ibrahim Traore led the West African nation’s second coup this year. [File: Kilaye Bationo/AP Photo]
Several weeks after Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was ousted in a coup, Captain Ibrahim Traore has been sworn in as Burkina Faso’s interim president.
Under tight security, Traore took the oath of office on Friday in the capital, Ouagadougou, and vowed to support a transition that would lead to elections in July 2024.
Traore, who was wearing military fatigues and a scarf with the country’s colors, said this after taking the oath:We are facing an unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis.
He continued, “Our objectives are nothing but the reconquest of territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists.”Burkina Faso’s existence is at risk.
On September 30, Traore led disgruntled junior officers in the second coup in the West African nation in eight months.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Burkina Faso’s last elected president, was ousted by Damiba, who only took power in January.
The constitutional council made the announcement earlier this week that the 34-year-old Traore had been chosen by a national meeting of the country’s forces to be “president of the transition, head of state, supreme chief of the national armed forces.” This came after the official investiture.
The council said in a statement on Wednesday that it officially acknowledged Damiba’s “resignation” and “the vacancy of the presidency.”
Burkina Faso has witnessed political instability amid anger at failures to stem a seven-year armed uprising that has claimed thousands of lives and driven nearly two million people from their homes.
Sam Mednick, a journalist in Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera that Traore had stressed in his speech that the existence of the country was in peril and that it was a priority to make the nation secure.
“Speaking to community leaders, soldiers and diplomats, they say he has many challenges ahead, one of them being that the army is not united,” Mednick said. “A lot of people still stand by his predecessor, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was ousted and is now in Togo.”
Damiba was removed from power due to his perceived inability to deal with a worsening armed uprising in the country.
“If Traore is not going to be able to show tangible progress quickly, people say he’s going to be ousted just like his predecessor,” Mednick said.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) strongly condemned the coup, saying that it came at an “inopportune” time when progress was being made towards a return to constitutional order.
The United Nations on Thursday said the humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso has become so dire that some women and children have eaten only leaves and salt for weeks.
“Growing insecurity and blockades in many areas have left communities cut off from the rest of the country and facing growing hunger. Aid workers are struggling to reach these people who need assistance,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a statement.
A quarter of Burkina Faso’s population – nearly five million people – is in need of emergency assistance, yet less than a third of the needed $805m for the country’s response plan is funded.
Attacks by armed groups, including some associated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), increased in mid-March despite the military government’s pledge to make security its top priority.
In September, Damiba sacked his defence minister and assumed the role himself.
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The struggle to contain rebel groups has prompted a series of coups in Mali, Guinea and Chad since 2020.
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