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Burkina Faso: New military junta calls for end to violence against French institutions

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By Euronews  with AFP
Protesters carry a Burkina Faso flag as soldiers stand atop a military vehicle during a demonstration in Ouagadougou on October 2, 2022.
Protesters carry a Burkina Faso flag as soldiers stand atop a military vehicle during a demonstration in Ouagadougou on October 2, 2022.   -   Copyright  AFP Photo

The new self-proclaimed head of the new military junta in Burkina Faso has called for an end to acts of "violence and vandalism" against France, amid high tension two days after the country's latest coup.

The head of Burkina Faso's ousted junta, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was overthrown on Friday by his rival Captain Ibrahim Traoré, agreed to resign this Sunday, after initially refusing to abdicate. 

Damiba agreed to step down as long as his security and other conditions were met, and the new junta leader who overthrew him has accepted the deal, religious leaders mediating the West African nation's latest political crisis said on Sunday.

French institutions in the West African nation have been attacked over the weekend, following reports that the former colonial power had given protection to Burkina Faso's deposed leader, allegations strongly denied by Paris.

On Sunday, protesters were dispersed with tear gas from inside the French embassy in Ouagadougou.

A few dozen demonstrators supporting self-proclaimed coup leader Ibrahim Traoré gathered outside the embassy, setting fire to protective barriers and throwing stones inside the building. An AFP reporter saw soldiers positioned on the roof as the tear gas was fired.

Other demonstrators were also seen tearing out barbed wire in an attempt to scale the wall surrounding the diplomatic building.

Late on Saturday afternoon, two French institutions had already been targeted by protesters: a fire broke out in front of the French embassy in Ouagadougou and another in front of the French Institute in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country's second-largest city.

Traoré appeared on national television on Sunday alongside another military coup leader who read out a statement.

"Things are gradually returning to order, so we invite you to go freely about your business and to desist from any act of violence and vandalism (...) especially those that could be perpetrated against the French embassy or the French military base in Ouagadougou," said the communiqué read by Captain Farouk Azaria Sorgho.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry condemned "the violence against our embassy with the utmost firmness", adding that "the safety of (its) compatriots" was its "priority".

These attacks "are the work of hostile demonstrators, manipulated by a campaign of disinformation against us," said spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre, "calling on all interested parties to ensure the security" of diplomatic buildings. 

Reports on social media that France had given protection to Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the head of the junta who was deposed on Friday, helped to arouse the anger of pro-Traoré demonstrators. The reports were formally denied both by Paris and by Damiba himself.

A few hours before Damiba's dismissal was announced on Friday evening, several hundred people demonstrated in Ouagadougou to demand his departure. They also called for the end of France's military presence in the Sahel, and for military cooperation with Russia instead.

Moscow's influence has been growing in several French-speaking African countries in recent years, particularly in Mali and the Central African Republic.

The deposed leader came to power in January in a coup that toppled President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was accused of ineffectiveness in the fight against jihadist violence. 

But in recent months, attacks hitting dozens of civilians and soldiers have multiplied in the north and east of Burkina Faso, where towns are now under a blockade by jihadists.

Despite the tensions, a curfew imposed on Friday has been lifted, although the country's borders remain closed for the moment.

Additional sources • AP