Burkina Faso’s military junta said Monday it had restored the constitution a week after taking power and appointed the coup’s leader as head of state for a transitional period.
The move came shortly after the African Union suspended Burkina for the takeover and diplomats from West Africa and the UN pressed demands for a return to civilian rule.
In a statement read on television, the junta announced it had approved a “fundamental act” that “lifts the suspension of the constitution,” a move that had been declared after the January 24 coup.
The 37-article document guarantees independence of the judiciary and presumption of innocence, as well as basic liberties spelled out in the constitution such as freedom of movement and freedom of speech, according to the statement.
Under the “fundamental act,” it said, the junta — officially named the Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) — “ensures the continuity of the state pending the establishment of transitional bodies.”
The statement did not give a timeline for the transition period.
It formally identified coup leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as president of the MPSR.
This role also encompasses “president of Burkina Faso, head of state (and) supreme leader of the armed forces,” the statement said.
The MPSR has two vice presidents, the statement added, but it did not mention any names.
A separate decree read on television said that the armed forces chief of staff, Gilbert Ouedraogo, was leaving the job.
Just hours earlier, the AU’s 15-member Peace and Security Council said on Twitter it had voted “to suspend the participation of #BurkinaFaso in all AU activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country”.
On Friday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also suspended Burkina Faso from its ranks and warned of possible sanctions pending the outcome of meetings with the junta.
An ECOWAS mission headed by Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway arrived in Ouagadougou, where it was joined by the UN’s special representative for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif.
ECOWAS sent military chiefs to confer with Damiba on Saturday.
Leaders from the bloc will hold a summit in Accra on Thursday to assess its two missions to see whether they should impose sanctions.
They have previously suspended and enforced sanctions against two other members — Mali and Guinea — which have also seen military overthrows in the past 18 months.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, who chairs the AU’s Commission, had already condemned the coup on the day it happened.
On January 24, rebel soldiers detained president Roch Marc Christian Kabore amid rising public anger at his failure to stem jihadist violence ravaging the impoverished nation.
They later released a handwritten letter in which he announced his resignation — a document that a member of his party said was authentic.
The junta also said it had dissolved the government and parliament and suspended the constitution, vowing to re-establish “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”.
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.
Kabore was elected in 2015 following a popular revolt that forced out strongman Blaise Compaore.
Compaore himself had seized power in 1987 during a coup in which the country’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, was gunned down.
He was re-elected in 2020, but the following year faced a wave of anger over his handling of a jihadist insurgency that has swept in from neighbouring Mali.
Since 2015, more than 2,000 people have died, according to an AFP toll, while the country’s emergency agency says 1.5 million people, in a population of 21 million, have fled their homes.