For more on the ECOWAS’s reaction to the recent ousting of Burkina Faso’s military leader Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba and the regional body’s demands regarding a transition to civilian rule, VOA’s James Butty spoke with Ambassador Abdel Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs and Security.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: How did ECOWAS react to the military ousting of Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba?
Musah: This should have been anticipated because the military has been quite divided since the first coup d’état.
This has contributed towards heating Burkina Faso’s political atmosphere.
I think this is of an internal military struggle.
VOA: Do you think the “friendly” relationship between former leader’s Col. Paul Henri Damiba and Blaise Compaoré, who was supposed to be facing trial, is what motivated the military to remove Damiba from his post?
Musah: I am not linking the second military coup to that incident, because what is happening is, there are struggles within the junta.
I say this because everyone involved in the second coup was part of the “original” coup with Col. Damiba.
Their reason for his removal is the fact that he has not performed well in the fight against terrorism in the country and that he has started playing politics.
I wonder what kind of politics because those who staged the second coup are also playing politics.
This is like the pot accusing the kettle of being black.
Both are dabbling in politics and ECOWAS stands firmly against any military involvement in the political life of a country. They should stick to their role as the defenders of the territorial integrity of the country.
With 40 percent of Burkina Faso currently under the control of armed groups, you would think that the military has a lot of work to do other than dabbling into politics.
This is what ECOWAS is firmly against and ECOWAS has not changed its attitude towards the country.
Burkina Faso remains suspended from community activities, and we are sticking to the original 24-month transitional period for the restoration of constitutional order, which should occur by the first of July 2024.
VOA: This is the second military coup in Burkina Faso in a year. Is ECOWAS losing the battle for democracy to military dictatorships in the region?
Musah: I would like to think that ECOWAS is not losing the battle for democracy.
There are many more countries which are “normally” democratic than the few that are disrupting the democratization of the region.
What I will say is that there is a combination of factors of governance deficit in the region, combined with an asymmetric conflict environment characterized by terrorism, inter-communal violence and what have you.