ECOWAS delegation meets leader of Burkina Faso’s ruling junta

ECOWAS last week suspended Burkina Faso over the latest coup.

ECOWAS delegation meeting

A delegation from ECOWAS met the leader of the ruling junta in Burkina Faso Saturday, the day after the West African bloc suspended the country over the region’s latest coup, the junta announced. The junta “reaffirmed its commitment to sub-regional and international organisations”, in a statement.

It added that the ECOWAS delegates met briefly with junta leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

Junta Leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba

Earlier in the day they held longer talks with other members of the junta which seized power on Monday.

The rebel soldiers seized the country’s president Roch Marc Christian Kabore amid rising public anger at his failure to stem the jihadist violence ravaging the impoverished nation. It marked the third military coup in a West African country in just 18 months.

The ECOWAS delegation arrived in Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou on Saturday morning and will leave on Sunday, said Benin diplomat Francis Behanzin. The delegation is composed of representatives from Benin, Togo and Ghana, and is led by ECOWAS peace and security commissioner Francis Behanzin of Benin, he added.

The delegation will “evaluate the situation before the arrival of another mission next week”. Ministerial-level ECOWAS envoys are expected to arrive in the Burkina Faso capital on Monday.

ECOWAS court

The once 15-nation ECOWAS had already suspended two other members, Guinea and Mali, after recent military coups. On Friday it also suspended Burkina Faso, demanding the release of Kabore, who is being held under house arrest by the army, as well as other detained officials.

West African leaders will hold a summit on February 3 in Ghana’s capital Accra to assess the outcome of the Burkina missions and decide whether to impose sanctions as it has done for Mali and Guinea. The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Ivorian politician Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, told AFP that the situation in Mali and Guinea will also be discussed at the February summit.

He said ECOWAS’ response to coups has “always been very firm and very coherent, it’s zero tolerance.”

Damiba has only spoken once since seizing power, in a televised address on Thursday in which he asked for help from Burkina Faso’s “international partners”. The coup is the latest bout of turmoil to strike Burkina Faso, a landlocked state that has suffered chronic instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

A jihadist insurgency that spread over Mali’s border has killed more than 2,000 and forced 1.5 million to flee their homes since 2015.

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