Burkinabe army captain Ibrahim Traoré has formally assumed leadership of the nation’s military junta. As the Islamic insurgency grew, Traoré ousted the previous military chief, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, in the nation’s second coup in eight months.
The 34-year-old Traoré has appealed for assistance from the US, Russia, and any other foreign governments “ready to help” to resolve the nation’s security issues. Traoré used a megaphone to speak to protesters in the capital city of Ouagadougou on Sunday during his first public speech. He echoed Burkinabé revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, who also stormed to power in a military coup at the same age, saying, “We will start working in the way you wish.”
Damiba, who has apparently fled to the neighboring country of Togo, submitted his resignation under seven conditions, which Traoré accepted—among them, a pledge that the nation will uphold its obligations to the ECOWAS about a two-year transition to democratic rule.
However, it is highly likely that the new coup leaders will join Mali and seek backing from the Wagner Group, a private military firm established by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, in an effort to lessen attacks by armed groups and therefore maintain their control. Soldiers from Burkina Faso observe the Wagner Group’s relative success in retaking areas from armed militias in the Central African Republic and thwarting rebel attempts to overthrow the country’s government.
The International Crisis Group’s West Africa project director, Rinaldo Depagne, told Foreign Policy that Russia was “definitely closer to completing a deal with Burkina today than they were with Damiba, certainly than they were with that country.” Russia, however, “does not provide more security or changes in the situation in Mali, as we observe. The Wagner Group is accomplishing absolutely nothing in Mali, and the Russian army is struggling in Ukraine.