By John Ikani
Burkina Faso’s military leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore has asserted that elections in the country are “not a priority” compared to “security.”
The statement made by Captain Traore on state TV yesterday (Friday) comes almost a year after he assumed power through a coup, with previous promises of holding presidential elections by July 2024.
Traore also revealed plans to make changes to the constitution to better represent the “masses.”
“Security is the priority,” Traore emphasized when referring to elections, acknowledging the ongoing jihadist violence in Burkina Faso.
However, he maintained the goal of organizing an election without specifying a date and highlighted the importance of ensuring that the entire Burkinabe population participates in choosing their president.
At the age of 34, Traore became the world’s youngest leader when sworn in as interim president.
He pledged to regain territorial control and facilitate a transition leading to elections in July 2024.
Traore further expressed intentions to make a “partial change” to the country’s constitution, citing that the current text primarily reflects “the opinion of a handful of enlightened people” to the detriment of the “popular masses.”
This move aims to allow for peaceful evolution.
In a show of support for the military regime, several thousand people demonstrated in Ouagadougou and other cities, advocating for the adoption of a new constitution.
Despite Traore’s initial promise to improve security within “two to three months” after seizing power, Burkina Faso continues to face jihadist violence a year later.
The ongoing security challenges have led to the government’s focus on responding to attacks by groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
They have also conducted significant recruitment efforts for the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP), a civilian force that assists the military.
However, security expert Lassina Diarra noted that despite Traore’s efforts, the situation in Burkina Faso has deteriorated significantly.
Over 17,000 people have lost their lives in attacks since 2015, with more than 6,000 fatalities this year alone, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).
Traore reaffirmed the country’s state of war, blaming “certain actors” for withholding equipment from the army.
He noted that most of their equipment is Russian, with limited French equipment.
Under Traore’s leadership, relations with France soured, resulting in French forces, which had been supporting the Burkinabe army, leaving the country in response to the junta’s request in February.
Burkina Faso has since strengthened ties with Russia and formed alliances with neighbouring Mali and Niger, both of which are also under military rule.
Recent concerns have arisen regarding the erosion of personal freedoms in Burkina Faso, with reports of alleged abuses by the VDP and armed forces.
The government has suspended French media outlets RFI, France 24, and Jeune Afrique in the country, and correspondents from Liberation and Le Monde have been expelled within the past year.
Authorities announced the detention of four officers following the military government’s claim of thwarting a coup attempt.
Traore alluded to “manipulated individuals” in reference to the attempted coup and insisted that there is “no malaise” in the army.