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Protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, recently to wave Russian flags and condemn alleged meddling by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the impoverished, landlocked West African country’s former colonial overseer, France.

The demonstration occurred a few days after Capt. Ibrahim Traore, 34, staged a coup to oust Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba from power. This came less than a year after Damiba seized power from democratically elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in his own coup, France 24 reported.

A young military officer with first-hand experience of fighting in the county’s unstable north, as CNN wrote, Traore claimed that Damiba and ECOWAS were failing to snuff out Islamic extremists who have killed thousands and displaced two million people from their homes. “Faced with the deteriorating situation, we tried several times to get Damiba to refocus…on the security question,” Traore told Reuters.

Analysts have estimated that Burkina Faso officials control only 60 percent of their country, Al Jazeera explained. Rebels allied with al Qaeda and Islamic State control the remaining 40 percent. The jihadists regularly blockade towns and stage attacks that kill scores of people.

Observers expect the country’s new leader will request assistance from Russia to bolster his rule and launch a new campaign against the extremists. As the Guardian wrote, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor – mercenaries, in other words – lauded the coup, describing Traore as “a truly courageous son of the motherland.”

Despite these developments, and even though Traore’s supporters were critical of ECOWAS’ role in Burkina Faso, a representative from the bloc said the new leader would continue to work on the country adopting constitutional rule rather than military juntas for its government. Traore has pledged to follow Damiba’s schedule of restoring constitutional politics within two years.

Meanwhile, rumors circulated that Damiba had fled to a French military base, which French officials denied. Hence the anger on the streets toward France. The BBC, however, reported that Damiba was in neighboring Togo.

The episode could signal a win for Russia in a long-running competition with France to exert more influence in the region. The Wagner Group, for example, has also been active in fighting Islamic extremists in nearby Mali, though, as Foreign Policy magazine noted, their performance in Mali has been less than stellar – not unlike the Russian army’s progress in Ukraine.

That doesn’t signal a good outcome for the troubled country.

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