OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) -Burkina Faso’s military junta on Thursday resisted pressure from West African regional union ECOWAS to relinquish power in less than three years, saying its priority was to restore security in the country.
The military seized power in late January, deposing President Roch Kabore in a coup and citing what they described as his inability to contain Islamist insurgents who control swathes of territory.
“To establish a viable democracy the first thing we need to do is to clear the territory (of Islamists), to allow peace to return,” junta spokesman Lionel Bilgo told a news conference in Ouagadougou.
The junta had previously said it was aiming for a 36-month transition to democracy.
ECOWAS leaders last week demanded that it shorten that period to “a more acceptable timeline”, but there was little sign of that on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba, who was appointed by the junta, said 36 months was “realistic” given the stated objective to restore security.
The junta also said discussions were under way about allowing Kabore, who has been under house arrest since the coup, to return to a residence of his choice. ECOWAS had called for his immediate and unconditional release.
“Talks … are ongoing, with a view to allowing the former president to return to a family residence of his choice whilst guaranteeing his security,” the junta said in a statement.
It did not specify who was taking part in the discussions.
ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on Mali and Guinea, whose military rulers are dragging their feet over a return to constitutional order.
Burkina Faso has so far been spared but could be next if it makes no concessions.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga, Anne Mimault and Sofia Christensen; Writing by Estelle Shirbon, Editing by William Maclean and John Stonestreet)