OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — A former U.N. ambassador was sworn in as Burkina Faso's transitional president Tuesday, tasked with organizing elections after the military briefly took power when the country's leader of nearly three decades was forced into exile.
Michel Kafando, 72, had been chosen a day earlier to lead Burkina Faso for the next year. He will not be allowed to run in the upcoming vote, and it remains unclear what role the lieutenant colonel who initially declared himself in control of the country will play in the transitional government.
Many at the inauguration shouted support for Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida, who had been named by the military as transitional leader after longtime President Blaise Compaore fled to Ivory Coast.
Compaore stepped down amid rising opposition protests, notably over his efforts to alter the constitution so he could seek yet another term. On Tuesday, Kafando vowed to avoid such missteps.
"We must always respect the Constitution, with humility, because the power that I hold is that of the people," he said.
Compaore fled Burkina Faso last month after protesters set fire to the main building in the parliament complex. The images of flames and black smoke set off alarm about the future of what had been one of West Africa's more stable countries. The military swiftly stepped in and briefly installed martial law.
However, the military faced growing pressure from the African Union and other members of the international community to return the country swiftly to civilian rule or face crippling sanctions that would have further paralyzed the desperately poor, land-locked country.
Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa.
U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke issued a statement congratulating Kafando on being sworn in.
"We encourage Mr. Kafando to build on the momentum of the past two weeks and to select individuals to serve in the transitional government who are firmly committed to a democratic, civilian government," he said.
"We urge Burkina Faso's armed forces to continue their primary mission to safeguard the territorial integrity of Burkina Faso and the security of its citizens," Rathke added.