Burkina Faso's military junta said Monday it had restored the constitution a week after seizing power in the poor Sahel country, an announcement that came as it held talks with international negotiators who praised its "openness" to their proposals.
The discussions in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou were "very frank," according to West African delegation leader Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, the foreign minister of Ghana.
"They seemed very open to the suggestions and proposals that we made. For us it's a good sign," she told reporters after the meeting with coup leader Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and other junta members.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegates were joined in the talks by the United Nations' special representative for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who also described a "very frank exchange."
The talks came shortly after the African Union (AU) suspended Burkina Faso for the Jan. 24 takeover.
ECOWAS had suspended Burkina Faso from its ranks on Friday and warned of possible sanctions pending the outcome of the talks with the junta.
Earlier Monday, in a statement read on television, the junta announced it had approved a "fundamental act" that "lifts the suspension of the constitution."
The junta – officially named the Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) – said its move would "ensure the continuity of the state pending the establishment of transitional bodies."
The statement did not give a timeline for the transition period. It formally identified Damiba as president of the MPSR and "supreme leader of the armed forces."
A separate decree said that the armed forces chief of staff, Gilbert Ouedraogo, was leaving the job.
Just hours earlier, the AU's 15-member Peace and Security Council said on Twitter it had voted "to suspend the participation of #BurkinaFaso in all AU activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country."
Also Monday, some members of the ECOWAS delegation visited ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who is under house arrest, a delegate said. His wellbeing and demands for his release have been major issues since the coup. ECOWAS sent military chiefs to confer with Damiba on Saturday.
Leaders from the bloc will hold a summit in Accra on Thursday to assess its two missions to see whether they should impose sanctions.
They have previously suspended and enforced sanctions against two other members – Mali and Guinea – which have also seen military takeovers in the past 18 months.
The United States expressed support Monday evening for ECOWAS's actions and called for Kabore's release.
"We share the concerns African leaders articulated regarding the actions of military officials in Burkina Faso, chiefly the suspension of the constitution and the removal of the democratically elected president and national assembly," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
"While some elements of the constitution may have been restored, extraconstitutional seizures of power erode the legitimacy of governance."
On Jan. 24, mutineering soldiers detained Kabore amid rising public anger at his failure to stem extremist violence ravaging the poor Sahel nation.
They later released a handwritten letter in which he announced his resignation – a document that a member of his party said was authentic.
The junta also said it had dissolved the government and parliament and suspended the constitution, vowing to re-establish "constitutional order" within a "reasonable time."
The coup is the latest bout of turmoil to strike Burkina Faso, a landlocked state that has suffered chronic instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Kabore was elected in 2015 following a popular revolt that forced out strongman Blaise Compaore.
Compaore himself had seized power in 1987 during a coup in which the country's revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, was gunned down.
He was re-elected in 2020, but the following year faced a wave of anger over his handling of an extremist insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali.
Since 2015, more than 2,000 people have died, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) toll, while the country's emergency agency says 1.5 million people, out of a population of 21 million, have fled their homes.