African Union suspends Burkina Faso after coup last week

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FILE - People take to the streets of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 25, 2022 to rally in support of the new military junta that ousted democratically elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and seized control of the country. Officials from the European Union and five countries of the north African Sahel region are meeting as the bloc readies to impose sanctions on Mali and as political turmoil roils Burkina Faso. The meeting Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022 brings together EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and foreign ministers from Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. (AP Photo/Sophie Garcia, file)

OUAGADOUGOU – The African Union has suspended Burkina Faso until constitutional order is restored in the West African country, the organization announced Monday in a tweet.

The suspension of Burkina Faso comes a week after mutinous soldiers ousted democratically elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in a coup, citing his inability to stem the violence from Islamic extremists.

The 15-nation West African group ECOWAS already had suspended Burkina Faso last week, making it the third nation in the regional bloc — after Mali and Guinea — to be punished for military takeovers in a year and a half. The suspensions mean the countries cannot participate in any meetings or decision-making, officials said.

While no sanctions have been imposed on Burkina Faso, a joint delegation with ECOWAS and the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, arrived in the capital, Ouagadougou on Monday.

The mediators urged the military junta to prepare a transition to constitutional rule if they wanted to have international support, though a specific time period was not given, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

A small group from the delegation also visited Kabore, the ousted president who hadn't been seen or heard from since being detained last week by the junta, the officials said.

An ECOWAS summit is scheduled on Thursday in Ghana to discuss the situations in Burkina Faso and Mali, which is also under harsh economic and travel sanctions after its coup leader failed to organize an election within 18 months.

On Monday afternoon, Burkina Faso's junta announced that the leader of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, is the country’s new president. Reading an announcement on state television, Lt. Col. Cyprien Kabore, a spokesman for the junta, also said the head of the intelligence unit and the army’s chief of staff had been fired but didn’t say who was replacing them.

Talks with Damiba and ECOWAS began Saturday when a West African military delegation arrived. The junta has said that Kabore has not adequately addressed extremist violence in Burkina Faso that has killed thousands and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Speaking to the nation last week for the first since seizing power, Damiba said he would restore security and order and unite the country. He warned that the new regime would not tolerate betrayal.

Also Monday, the long-awaited trial on the killing of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s influential leftist leader who was killed more than three decades ago, was suspended as a result of the coup. Prosper Farama, one of the lawyers for the Sankara family, said the trial was paused until the constitution is reestablished, which could be a few days.

The president of the military tribunal said the trial would resume 24 hours after the constitution was reestablished.