Pro-Russia demonstrators rally in Burkina after coup

Pro-Russia demonstrators rally in Burkina after coup

Demonstrators waved Russian and Burkina flags in a protest against West African bloc ECOWAS
Demonstrators waved Russian and Burkina flags in a protest against West African bloc ECOWAS. Photo: Issouf SANOGO / AFP
Source: AFP

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Several dozen protestors waving Russian flags rallied in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Tuesday as West African delegates arrived on a fact-finding mission following the country's second coup in less than nine months.

Demonstrators chanted support for Russia, called on France to leave the country and warned ECOWAS -- the Economic Community of West African States -- against "meddling", an AFP journalist saw.

The impoverished Sahel state was plunged into turmoil at the weekend when Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who had seized power only in January, was toppled by a newly emerged rival, 34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore.

The dramatic takeover coincided with violent anti-French protests and the emergence of Russian flags among demonstrators, stoking speculation that Traore may follow other regimes in French-speaking Africa and forge close ties with Moscow at France's expense.

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The ECOWAS delegation, whose visit was initially scheduled for Monday, arrived on Tuesday morning and was to head to the president's office to meet Traore, officials told AFP.

The bloc, designed to promote democracy in one of the world's most volatile regions, has witnessed five coups among three of its 15 members in little more than two years.

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Its approach has been to urge junta leaders to set a relatively short timetable for restoring civilian rule -- and to impose sanctions against those deemed to be ignoring the demand or sidestepping their pledges.

But it has also taken flak, with some critics accusing it of supporting Western, or specifically French, interests.

Traore said in a statement the ECOWAS visit was to "make contact with the new transition authorities" as part of the support that ECOWAS provided to Burkina.

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He said he had learned "with astonishment and regret" that messages had circulated on social media "calling for this mission to be hampered" and urged calm and restraint.

"Any person who commits acts aimed at disturbing the smooth course of the ECOWAS mission will face the force of the law," Traore said.

The ECOWAS visit to Ouagadougou is headed by Guinea-Bissau Foreign Minister Suzi Carla Barbosa, whose country currently chairs the bloc, and includes former Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou, who is the mediator for Burkina Faso.

Landlocked and deeply poor, Burkina Faso has experienced little political stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

The latest turmoil takes place against the backdrop of a bloody jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.

Thousands of civilians, troops and police officers have been killed and nearly two million people have fled their homes.

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Source: AFP

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