Burkina Faso junta leader Paul-Henri Damiba agrees to step down
Burkina Faso's junta leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba agreed to step down Sunday, two days after military officers announced he had been removed from power, religious and community leaders said.
Following mediation between Damiba and the new self-proclaimed leader, army Captain Ibrahim Traore, "Damiba himself offered his resignation in order to avoid confrontations with serious human and material consequences", the religious and community leaders said in a statement.
Security forces had earlier Sunday fired tear gas at dozens of rock-throwing protesters outside the French embassy in Burkina Faso's capital on Sunday, according to an AFP journalist, as unrest simmered in the West African country following its second coup this year.
Supporters of Burkina's newest putsch leader Traore had gathered outside the building in Ouagadougou a day after he accused the man he deposed of hiding out at a French base to plot a "counteroffensive".
With French troops watching from the roof, the protesters had set fire to barriers outside and lobbed rocks at the structure when the tear gas volleys were fired.
The new putschists said on Sunday that the situation was under control, urging people to refrain from acts of vandalism and violence targeting the French embassy and a French military base, a statement read on national television said.
"We want to inform the population that the situation is under control and order is being restored," an army officer said in a statement broadcast on national television. The officer was flanked by Traore and other armed and masked soldiers.
The latest spasm of violence to convulse the deeply impoverished nation began on Friday, when junior military officers said they had toppled Damiba, accusing him of failing to quell jihadist attacks.
It marked the second coup this year in Burkina Faso and the latest in the Sahel region, much of which is battling a growing Islamist insurgency.
In a statement read out on national television on Saturday evening and signed by Traore, the country's new leader, the officers said Damiba "is believed to have taken refuge in the French base at Kamboinsin in order to plan a counteroffensive to stir up trouble in our defence and security forces".
Later on Saturday, Damiba rejected the allegations that he was at a French base, but provided no further details about his whereabouts.
France, the former colonial power in Burkina Faso, on Saturday denied "any involvement" in the coup or that "Burkinabe authorities have been hosted or are under the protection of the French military".
In a written statement on the presidency's official Facebook page, Damiba urged his rivals "to come to their senses to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso doesn't need".
Damiba himself came to power in a coup in January. He installed himself as leader of the country's 16 million people after accusing elected president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of failing to beat back jihadist fighters. But the insurgency has raged on.