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Junta Leader in Burkina Faso Shifts Focus to Security Over Elections


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Burkina Faso’s military leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, who took power in a coup last year, has stated that elections are not the top priority for the country. He made this announcement on state TV, nearly a year after assuming power through a coup. Traore initially pledged to return the country to democracy with presidential elections scheduled for July 2024 and also proposed constitutional changes to better represent the masses.

Traore clarified, “It’s not a priority, I’ll tell you that clearly, it’s security that’s the priority.” This decision comes as Burkina Faso continues to grapple with jihadist violence. Traore, however, mentioned that the goal is still to organize an election but did not specify a date.

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He emphasized that the election should not be limited to a few cities but should allow all Burkinabe people to choose their president. Traore, at 34 years old, became the world’s youngest leader when he assumed the role of interim president. He vowed to regain territory and support a transition leading to elections by July 2024.

Additionally, Traore revealed plans for a “partial change” to the country’s constitution, stating that the current text reflects “the opinion of a handful of enlightened people” to the detriment of the “popular masses.” Thousands of people demonstrated in support of the military regime, calling for the adoption of a new constitution.

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Despite Traore’s efforts to improve security and regain territory, Burkina Faso continues to face significant jihadist violence. Since 2015, over 17,000 people have died in attacks, with more than 6,000 deaths occurring this year alone. Traore cited the country’s security situation as the justification for the coup. The regime has focused on responding to attacks by affiliates of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group and has expanded the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP), a civilian force supporting the military.

Under Traore’s leadership, Burkina Faso’s relations with France deteriorated, leading to the departure of French forces that had been assisting the Burkinabe army. The country has since strengthened ties with Russia and formed an alliance with Mali and Niger, both of which are also led by military regimes.

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Concerns have arisen regarding the erosion of personal freedoms in Burkina Faso, with allegations of abuses by the VDP and armed forces. Several French media outlets have been suspended, and correspondents from newspapers Liberation and Le Monde have been expelled from the country in the past year.

Regarding a recent coup attempt, Traore mentioned “manipulated individuals” and insisted that there is “no malaise” within the army.