Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso,
July 01, 2021 – The President of Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has taken over the position of the Minister of Defense in the latest cabinet reshuffle announced Wednesday night amid looming political turmoil.
The president will be assisted in the role by Col Maj Barthélémy Simporé, according to a presidential decree seen by BBC Africa.
The development comes amid a brewing protest spearheaded by the opposition against the government handling of terrorism in the West African country. The protest was scheduled for 3rd and 4th July.
Opposition groups said the protests are aimed at paying tribute to victims of terrorism and also denounce the government’s handling of jihadist violence in the country.
Earlier, opposition leaders called on Prime Minister Christophe Dabiré and Defense Minister Chériff Sy to resign.
Local media report that suspected jihadists staged an attack in Solhan in the north-eastern region on 4 June and killed130 people, the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since April 2015.
According to Reuters, groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State originally based in neighboring Mali have embedded themselves across north and eastern Burkina Faso, launching regular attacks on civilians.
The opposition groups are piling pressure on Kabore to win back control and end a humanitarian crisis in which more than 1 million people have been displaced by violence.
Kabore will oversee the defense ministry with help from Simpore, replacing Cheriff Sy who was in the post since January 2019. Simpore had previously helped run national security policy.
Multiple reports say attacks by jihadists in West Africa’s Sahel region have risen sharply since the start of the year, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, with civilians bearing the brunt despite the heavy presence of U.N. peacekeepers,
The attack this month pushes the number killed by armed Islamists in the Sahel region to more than 500 since January, according to Human Rights Watch.