Coup-hit Burkina Faso skirts sanctions at West African summit

Map of Burkina Faso

West African leaders on Thursday decided against toughening sanctions against Burkina Faso after it became the region’s latest country to be hit by a coup, opting instead to demand a timetable for a swift return to civilian rule, a source at an emergency summit said.

The spate began with Mali, where a coup in August 2020 was followed by a second in May 2021, and then Guinea was elected president Alpha Conde was ousted last September.

ECOWAS called an emergency summit in Accra to see whether Burkina should join the other two for trade and other sanctions, as well as suspension.

But leaders decided against this for the time being, after hearing the outcome of talks with the junta, said a summit participant.

“We are going to ask the Burkinabe authorities to propose a clear and fast timetable for restoring constitutional order,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There are no new sanctions against Burkina Faso.”

Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Chair of ECOWAS Council of Minister, at the second extraordinary summit on the political situation in Burkina Faso, in Accra, Ghana, on January 3, 2022. AFP

A diplomatic team led by Ghana’s foreign minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, reported positive signs after meeting in Ouagadougou with strongman Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and other junta members.

“They seemed very open to the suggestions and proposals that we made. For us it’s a good sign,” she said.

The talks were attended by the UN’s special representative for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who described a “very frank exchange”.

The delegation also met ousted president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, whose wellbeing and demands for release from house arrest are major issues, at his Ouagadougou villa.

During their visit, the junta declared it had restored the constitution, which it had swiftly suspended following the coup, and named Damiba as president and head of the armed forces during a transition period.

And on the eve of the summit, the junta also lifted a nationwide 9:00 pm to 5:00 pm curfew