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African Union condemns latest Burkina Faso military takeover as army dismisses coup

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo shows Burkinabe soldiers standing guard in an armored vehicle in the capital, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Saturday October 1, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The African Union on Saturday condemned the "unconstitutional change of government" in Burkina Faso, a day after the second coup this year in the deeply poor and restive West African country.

Junior officers toppled a junta leader on Friday, saying he had failed to fight off militant attacks in the country.

"The chairperson calls upon the military to immediately and totally refrain from any acts of violence or threats to the civilian population, civil liberties, human rights," the AU said in a statement, calling for the restoration of the constitutional order by July 2024.

AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said he was deeply concerned about the resurgence of unconstitutional ousters in the West African nation and elsewhere on the continent.

In Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, an uneasy calm reigned as soldiers in armored vehicles and pickup trucks guarded the national television center, but traffic slowly resumed on arterial roads.

Shops slowly started reopening in the dusty and spread-out city, where pre-dawn gunfire on Friday around the presidential palace culminated in the latest coup that drew wide condemnation.

The Economic Community of West African States regional bloc "condemned in the strongest possible terms" the latest seizure of power, calling it inappropriate at a time when progress was being made for a return to constitutional order by July 1, 2024.

Burkina Faso's former colonial power, France, told its citizens in Ouagadougou, believed to number between 4,000 and 5,000, to stay home, while the European Union expressed "concern" at the unfolding events.

The United States called "for a return to calm and restraint by all actors."

Just before 8:00 pm (2000 GMT) on Friday, more than a dozen soldiers in fatigues appeared on the state television and radio broadcaster to announce the removal of Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

They proclaimed 34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore in charge.

"We have decided to take our responsibilities, driven by a single ideal: the restoration of security and integrity of our territory," they said.

"Damiba failed. Since he came to power, the zones that were peaceful were attacked. He took power but then he betrayed us," Habibata Rouamba, a trader and activist said on Saturday.

In January, Damiba installed himself as leader of the country of 16 million after accusing elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore of failing to beat back militants.

Damiba's fate remains unknown.

Burkina army dismisses coup claim as 'internal crisis'

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso's army on Saturday dismissed a claim by junior officers that they had seized power in the West African country as an "internal crisis."

In its first reaction since late Friday, the army's general staff, however, appeared not to recognize the coup.

"Following an internal crisis within the national armed forces, a few units have taken control of some arteries of the city of Ouagadougou, demanding the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel (Paul-Henri Sandaogo) Damiba," it said in a statement.

"Dialogue is ongoing," it added.

Among a wave of international condemnation, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres "strongly condemns any attempt to seize power by the force of arms and calls on all actors to refrain from violence and seek dialogue," his spokesman said in a statement Saturday.

"Burkina Faso needs peace, stability and unity to fight terrorist groups and criminal networks operating in parts of the country," the UN statement added.

(Source: AFP)

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