Ouagadougou (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s military leader Paul-Henri Damiba was sworn in as president on Wednesday, weeks after leading a successful coup, and he promised to deal with the mounting insecurity that helped oust his predecessor.
Damiba led a military junta that on Jan. 24 overthrew President Roch Kabore, citing Kabore’s inability to curb an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of people and forced more than one million people to flee their homes in the West African country.
The lieutenant colonel, who had little public profile before he appeared on state television last month to announce the takeover, opened his speech at Wednesday’s ceremony with a moment of silence for the civilians and soldiers killed in the fight against militants.
“To…gain the upper hand over the enemy, it will be necessary… to rise up and convince ourselves that as a nation we have more than what it takes to win this war,” said Damiba, dressed in military fatigues and a red beret.
He said he would reorganise the armed forces to strengthen the link between the intelligence service and field operations, and would make logistical support more flexible.
He also pledged to fight corruption and depoliticise the public administration.
Damiba has not said how long he plans to hold power, but has promised to work with the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), towards a return to democratic elections.
The military coup in Burkina Faso followed takeovers in Mali, Guinea and Chad since 2020, raising fears of coup contagion among regional leaders.
In Mali, unrest was also driven by the government’s failure to contain the Islamist threat that since 2015 has spread across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
ECOWAS last month suspended Burkina Faso from its governing bodies because of the coup, but it stopped short of imposing the kind of sanctions it has imposed on Mali and Guinea.