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Burkina Faso's military leader agrees to step down after coup

Lt Col Paul-Henri Damiba

Burkina Faso's military leader, who was ousted in a coup on Friday, has formally agreed to step down, religious and community leaders said.

They said the country's new self-declared leader, Capt Ibrahim Traoré, had accepted Lt Col Paul-Henri Damiba's resignation and conditions he had set.

The announcement followed attacks on French institutions, after it was reported that Lt Col Damiba was sheltering at a French military base.

Unconfirmed reports say he is in Togo.

Russia and France are engaged in a battle for influence in several former French colonies in West and Central Africa.

Pro-Russian slogans were chanted and Russian flags waved by supporters of the new junta leader Capt Traoré on Sunday.

He regards former colonial power France as an ally of the man he ousted, and has spoken of his willingness to work with new partners to fight Islamist insurgents - and analysts believe that could mean hiring Russian mercenaries.

The head of the Russian mercenary Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has welcomed the takeover.

Burkina Faso controls as little as 60% of its territory, experts say, and Islamist violence is worsening.

On Sunday, Capt Traoré said the country was facing an emergency in every sector, and ordered cabinet ministers to "move faster and abandon the unnecessary red tape".

The African Union has demanded the return of constitutional order by July 2023 at the latest, agreeing with the regional group Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) that the ousting of leader Lt Col Damiba was "unconstitutional".

But Ecowas has since praised "the various parties in Burkina Faso for agreeing to a peaceful settlement of their differences", as days of power struggles came to an end without bloodshed.

No statement has been released by Lt Col Damiba directly.

But religious and community leaders said Lt Col Damiba himself had offered his resignation "in order to avoid confrontations with serious human and material consequences," according to quotes cited by AFP news agency.

They said Lt Col Damiba had set seven conditions for stepping down - including a guarantee of his security, an agreement to continue with efforts at national reconciliation and a continued respect for the guarantee of returning to civilian rule within two years.

The deposed colonel had himself ousted President Roch Kaboré in January, saying that he had failed to deal with growing militant Islamist violence.

Many citizens in Burkina Faso have not felt safe for some time.

The Islamist insurgency broke out in the country in 2015, leaving thousands dead and forcing an estimated two million people from their homes.

This is Burkina Faso's ninth coup since independence from France in 1960.


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