West Africa bloc mediator 'satisfied' after meeting Burkina Faso new military leader

FILE PHOTO: Burkina Faso's new military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso October 2, 2022. REUTERS/Vincent Bado/File Photo

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) -The mediator sent to Burkina Faso by West Africa's main political and economic bloc ECOWAS, Mahamadou Issoufou, on Tuesday said he was satisfied by a meeting with the country's new military leader Ibrahim Traore.

Issoufou added that the 15-member bloc would continue accompanying Burkina Faso's transition to constitutional rule after the country was hit by its second military takeover this year.

ECOWAS had repeatedly urged the junta that took control on Friday to respect a timetable agreed with their predecessors to return to constitutional rule by July 2024.

"We had very profound exchanges. Very frank exchanges," Issoufou told reporters after meeting religious leaders and Traore in the capital Ouagadougou.

"I can assure you that ECOWAS will remain with the people of Burkina Faso ... and the difficult challenge they face," he added.

Burkina Faso's government released a statement saying the meeting took place but provided no further comments.

The meeting took place on a backdrop of protests in Ouagadougou that forced the delegation to stay at the airport rather than travel to a conference hall in the city centre for security reasons, a diplomatic source said.

Dozens of demonstrators blocked access to the conference centre on Tuesday morning to prevent the meeting from taking place, a Reuters reporter said.

The crowds remained relatively small and peaceful.

But they followed violent anti-France protests over the weekend that flared after Traore said Damiba had taken refuge in a French military base, which France denied.

Some accused the bloc of siding with France, Burkina Faso's former coloniser, and doing little to help the country tackle a rampant Islamist insurgency that has killed hundreds, displaced thousands and pushed besieged towns in the north to the brink of famine.

Frustrations over growing insecurity spurred both the first military takeover in January and the latest coup.

ECOWAS is struggling to facilitate a return to constitutional order in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Mali, all of which have seen coups since 2020.

(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga and Anne MimaultWriting by Sofia ChristensenEditing by James Macharia Chege and Marguerita Choy)

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