Burkina Faso’s Damiba calls for ‘unity’ against jihadists

Burkina Faso's new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba (L), who was sworn in as president earlier this year following a coup, speaks during a press conference flanked by Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (R) at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou on July 8, 2022 after a summit of ex-presidents. (Photo by OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP)
Burkina Faso’s new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba (L), who was sworn in as president earlier this year following a coup, speaks during a press conference flanked by Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (R) at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou on July 8, 2022, after a summit of ex-presidents. (Photo by AFP)

The head of Burkina Faso’s ruling junta Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, speaking alongside ex-president Blaise Compaore, on Friday called for “social cohesion” to face jihadist violence plaguing the nation.

Damiba, who took power in a coup in January, made his appeal after inviting former leaders to attend a summit to “accelerate national reconciliation” and attempt to curb jihadist attacks that have rocked Burkina Faso since 2015.

But only two ex-leaders attended: Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, who was in office from 1982 to 1983, and Compaore, who served as president for 27 years until he was forced into exile in Cote d’Ivoire following a popular uprising in 2014.

Compaore returned home on Thursday for the first time in eight years to attend the summit.

Damiba said Friday’s meeting focused mostly on “the quest for lasting peace in our country”.

“It is only in social cohesion and unity that the forces fighting terrorism at this very moment will be even more determined and successful,” he added, with Compaore standing beside him.

“The urgency of preserving the existence of our homeland requires a synergy of actions that does not allow us to give ourselves the luxury of wasting any time in arguments,” Damiba said.