Several dozen protestors waving Russian flags have rallied in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, as West African envoys wrapped up a fact-finding mission following the country’s second coup in less than nine months.
Demonstrators on Tuesday chanted support for Russia, called on France to exit the country and warned ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — against “meddling”, an AFP news agency journalist saw.
The ECOWAS delegates arrived on Tuesday morning, headed by Guinea-Bissau Foreign Minister Suzi Carla Barbosa, whose country currently chairs the bloc.
They said later the same day they had concluded their mission after “two important meetings”.
These were “a first with traditional and religious leaders, and the main meeting with Captain Ibrahim Traore”, said former Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou, the mediator for Burkina Faso at ECOWAS.
Issoufou said the country had been “on the brink of collapse” over the weekend.
The impoverished Sahel state plunged into turmoil at the weekend when Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba — who had seized power in January — was toppled by a newly emerged rival, 34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore.
The dramatic takeover, which ended with Damiba fleeing to neighbouring Togo, coincided with violent anti-French protests and the sudden emergence of Russian flags among demonstrators.
Wagner founder hails Traore
Speculation has risen that Traore may follow other fragile regimes in French-speaking Africa and forge close ties with Moscow at the expense of France, the region’s former colonial power and traditional ally.
On the streets, demonstrators’ slogans included “France get out”, “No to ECOWAS interference”, and “Long live Russia-Burkina cooperation”.
In Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the notorious Wagner paramilitary group whose operatives have been documented in the Central African Republic and Mali, congratulated Traore, hailing him “a genuinely brave son… of his homeland”.
“I salute and give my support to Captain Ibrahim Traore,” the usually secretive 61-year-old businessman said on the social media outlets of his company Concord.
Traore and his men “have done what was necessary and they did it simply for the good of their people”, he said.