West African Bloc Says It Won’t Abandon Burkina Faso After Coup
A representative of West Africa’s regional bloc said it would keep working with Burkina Faso despite concerns about the military’s plan to hold power for three years after a January coup.
The comments came on Thursday from Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway who led the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation to the Burkina capital Ouagadougou.
“The issues and the problems that plague Burkina Faso are our problems, as well. It is not in this time of need of Burkina Faso that ECOWAS will abandon it,” she said after meeting coup leader and interim President Paul-Henri Damiba.
Ayorkor Botchway said the body was nevertheless concerned about the three-year period for transition back to democracy but that the military leadership had explained their reasoning.
ECOWAS had suspended Burkina Faso after the military overthrew President Roch Kabore, but has not imposed sanctions as it did on neighbouring Mali and Guinea, where coups have also happened in the last 18 months.
The reason behind the differing approach is not entirely clear, but may be partly based on Burkina Faso’s struggle with a rebellion that has killed thousands and forced more than one million people – about one in 20 – to flee their homes since 2015.
ECOWAS has demanded the release of former President Kabore, who has been in custody for nearly two months since the coup. Ayorkor Botchway said Damiba gave the delegation permission to visit him and that he is in good spirits.
Burkina Faso, alongside neighbours Mali and Niger, has been struggling to combat attacks by groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in recent years.
The worsening violence has eroded faith in democratic governments which many believe are ill-equipped to deal with the situation.