UNITED NATIONS – Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore urged African states to improve their cooperation on fighting extremists Wednesday in the wake of the deadly Nairobi shopping mall attack.
Compaore, who took power in Burkina Faso a bloody coup more than 25 years ago, emerged as a mediator in the crisis in Mali.
There, Al-Qaeda-linked groups imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on a large swath of the country until French troops flushed them out in January.
Discussing the Nairobi attack in an interview ahead of his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Compaore said “there may be links between all these groups.”
“Beyond the Sahel, we need to start reinforcing information-sharing, be it in Central Africa or all the way to eastern Africa,” he said.
At least 67 people were killed during the four-day siege by gunmen at a luxury shopping mall in the Kenyan capital. Dozens more are missing.
Somalia’s Shebab militia, linked to Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the carnage, which ended late Tuesday.
Turning to Mali, Compaore called for vigilance there, even though he said the war is “over.”
“These Malian movements that were demanding independence or Islamic sharia law have agreed to follow the republic’s principles, starting with participating in elections and allowing Mali to choose a legitimate president,” he said.
“But for those non-Malian groups that left, you still have to be vigilant,” Compaore said, dubbing the outside groups “terrorists.”
Mediating the Mali crisis on behalf of the regional Economic Community of West African States, Compaore brokered a preliminary agreement that paved the way for presidential elections in July and August.
The vote even took place in the northeastern city of Kidal, still occupied by separatist Tuareg rebels after the French offensive.
The Burkina Faso leader also joined French President Francois Hollande in sounding the alarm over developments in the chronically unstable Central African Republic.
“Certainly, after this sounding of the alarm, we must plan a large international conference to see how we can manage these crises as we seek world peace,” Compaore said.
“This should be done as soon as possible.”
France is leading political efforts to restore order and peace to its former colony after a near-collapse.
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was named president after a coup but he has been unable to restore security and rights bodies have warned it risks becoming a failed state.
“Darfur, Somalia — where there are other forces in the region — plus Guinea-Bissau and soon the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo; all of this is indeed starting to weighh heavily on both governments in the region and the international community,” Compaore said.
Vague on mandate
Asked about the end of his mandate in 2015 and his future plans, the man who has led Burkina Faso since 1987 remained vague.
“I was elected based on a program. My main concern is to do everything to execute all or a large part of my program,” said Compaore, 62.
He called his possible candidacy “an interesting question.”
“But… we are still a long ways away… I don’t think this is my main concern,” Compaore said.
Some of the president’s supporters want him to change the constitution so he can stand again in two years’ time.
“To change the constitution, I do not need to create other institutions,” Compaore said.