DAKAR, SENEGAL - The leader of Burkina Faso's military junta on Friday said promised elections would only be held once the security situation permits, as hundreds of his supporters rallied in the capital on the first anniversary of the coup.
Supporters gathered at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou waving Burkinabe flags. Some held signs with pictures of the young interim president, Captain Ibrahim Traore.
Traore grabbed power Sept. 30, 2022, ousting the leader of another coup who had overthrown president Roch Kabore eight months earlier amid a worsening security crisis fueled by armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The coups were welcomed by many citizens fed up with the deadly violence and disillusioned by their government, but condemned by Western countries who see their influence waning as democracy retreats in West Africa's Sahel region.
The junta has previously committed to holding elections in July 2024 that would restore civilian rule, but Traore on Friday stressed his main priority was security.
In an interview on state television marking the anniversary, he said there would be no elections until the country was safe enough for everyone to vote.
Traore said security was improving and the army had gained ground. But the outlook is very challenging. The decade-long insurgency has killed thousands and displaced millions of people across Burkina Faso, and neighboring Mali and Niger. All three are now run by military officers who took power by force since 2020.
Burkinabe forces suffered one of their heaviest losses in months in early September with over 50 soldiers and volunteer fighters killed in clashes with militants.
Despite the persistent violence, the 35-year-old Traore has won support in some quarters with his pan-Africanist, anti-French rhetoric. He has kicked out French troops and cracked down on French media as tensions grew between Burkina Faso and its former colonizer.
The rally took place days after the junta said it had thwarted a coup attempt against it, and that investigations were under way to determine who was behind the plot.