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“We Are Not Here for Power”: Burkina Faso New Leader

Burkina Faso's new military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers in Ouagadougou, October 2, 2022.

Burkina Faso’s new leader Ibrahim Traore says former junta leader Paul Henri-Damiba was relieved off his duties because he failed to quell jihadist attacks against the West African nation, and adds, the military will be in charge amid a pending national forum that will choose a president.

For more on Burkina Faso’s second military coup this year and Traore’s plans for the West African nation, VOA’s Mohamed Elshinnawi spoke to Joseph Siegle, the director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: What do you think was the reasoning behind the second military coup that led to the removal of Col. Paul Henri-Damiba?

Siegle: In my view there was not a legitimate explanation for a coup.

To say that a government hasn’t dealt with a jihadist threat and therefore that’s a justification for ceasing power becomes a circular argument that allows other "would-be" coup leaders to take power themselves.

That argument is not sufficient.

I think it’s positive that Traore is talking about a national forum and the need to choose a president.

I think we want to hold him to those words because that is what Burkina Faso needs. It needs to return to a constitutionally based, civilian led democratic system, and that is going to be the most powerful governance structure that can seize the moment and the severity of the crisis that the country is facing.

It’s that type of government that will not only mobilize the entire domestic effort, but it will open doors for greater commitment from international actors who are having difficulty working with the juntas.

VOA: The military coup sparked a wave of international criticism from the United States, the African Union, the European Union, and the regional ECOWAS. Was that enough to curb military coups in Africa?

Siegle: Unfortunately, I don’t think so.

There has been condemnation over previous coups, so more than words are going to be needed.

Words of condemnation are going to need to be supported by penalties to isolate these coup leaders. They should not be recognized as the heads of state.

Unfortunately, what we have seen is an effort by ECOWAS and international actors to accommodate the coup leaders and while that may seem like a diplomatic approach to a bad situation, what this has done is green light these unconstitutional seizures of power.

Once this precedence is in place, it creates its own momentum. What is to stop another military actor from seizing power in Burkina Faso or any other African country? That is the slippery slope that we are seeing.

Coup leaders have found that they can ignore ECOWAS and the international community without many penalties.

There must be some learning that takes place and heighten pressure against all juntas in west Africa to accelerate the transition back to civilian led governments, otherwise we are going to see more instability in this part of the world.

Burkina Faso's Traore Promises National Presidency Forum
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