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Meet Burkina Faso’s New Leader

Said to have been a shy but intelligent boy in school, Burkina Faso’s Capt Ibrahim Traoré has become the latest military officer to seize power in a coup in one of France’s former colonies in West Africa.  He overthrew his former comrade, Lt Col Paul-Henri Damiba on 30 September, after accusing him of failing to fulfil his promise of quelling the Islamist insurgency that has gripped Burkina Faso since 2015. Born in 1988, this makes the 34-year-old captain the youngest head of state in Africa, joining the ranks of two other coup leaders – Guinea’s charismatic Col Mamady Doumbouya, born in 1981, and Mali’s bearded Col Assimi Goïta, born in 1983. During Lt-Col Damiba’s short time in power, attacks by militant Islamists – some of them linked to the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda – increased in Burkina Faso as they seized territory in rural areas and encircled cities, leaving the state in control of only about 60% of the country, according to some estimates. With a lack of strong democratic institutions in a country where the military has long been dominant, Capt Traoré seized power with a pledge to improve security in a nation living in fear of the militants.