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African Mediators Head to Burkina Faso 10/03 06:04


   OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) -- Regional mediators were headed to Burkina 
Faso on Monday in the wake of the West African country's second coup this year 
amid concern the latest power grab could further postpone elections and deepen 
the region's Islamic extremist violence.

   News that the delegation from the regional bloc known as ECOWAS is traveling 
to the capital, Ouagadougou, came after diplomats confirmed that Lt. Col. Paul 
Henri Sandaogo Damiba had left for the neighboring nation of Togo following 
talks mediated by religious leaders.

   Burkina Faso's new leader, Capt. Ibrahim Traore, 34, is officially head of 
state pending future elections, the junta announced Sunday. While ECOWAS, a 
15-nation West African bloc, had reached an agreement to hold a new vote by 
July 2024, it remained unclear whether that date would still hold.

   Burkina Faso's last democratically elected president was overthrown by 
Damiba in January amid frustration that his government had not been able to 
stop extremist attacks. But the jihadi violence, which has killed thousands and 
forced 2 million to flee their homes, continued and has now brought an end to 
Damiba's tenure, too.

   The new leader told journalists in interviews over the weekend that 
conditions remained poor for soldiers in the field. Damiba had not done enough 
to improve that situation, Traore said.

   "I go on patrol with my men and we don't have the basic logistics," he told 
Voice of America. "In some villages, the trees don't have leaves because people 
eat the leaves. They eat weeds. We've proposed solutions that will enable us to 
protect these people, but we are not listened to. We made so many proposals."

   In recent days, Traore's followers have waved Russian flags and called for 
military support to help fight the jihadis, as neighboring Mali has done with 
Russia's Wagner Group. However, those Russian mercenary forces have been 
accused of human rights abuses and some fear their involvement in Burkina Faso 
would only make things worse.

   It remains to be seen whether Traore and his forces can turn around the 
crisis as international condemnation of the new coup mounts. The political 
chaos erupted into unrest over the weekend as protesters attacked the French 
Embassy in the capital and several other buildings associated with France 
around the country.

   The anti-French sentiment swelled further after a junta representative said 
on state television that Damiba had sought refuge at a French military base in 
Burkina Faso. France vehemently denied the allegation and any involvement in 
the unfolding events.

   The 4,000 French citizens registered in Burkina Faso are urged to stay at 
their homes, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

   "The situation is very volatile in Burkina Faso," she told The Associated 
Press on Sunday in Paris. "There have been serious violations of the security 
of our diplomatic presence. Unacceptable violations that we condemn."

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