Burkina Faso is seeking an international arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, the speaker of parliament in Ivory Coast and a former rebel leader, on charges related to a failed coup last year, military sources said Friday.
The move risks raising tensions between the two neighbouring West African nations, which share a history of close, if often fraught, economic and political ties.
The decision was made after authorities listened to phone recordings that linked Soro to the Burkina Faso coup, in which elite soldiers briefly took the interim president hostage, a military source said.
In the recorded conversation, Soro is heard talking to and Djibril Bassolé, a political ally of Burkina Faso’s deposed longtime ruler Blaise Compaoré.
The two men can allegedly be heard discussing ways to support the coup against Burkina Faso’s interim government led by Compaoré’s former spy chief General Gilbert Diendéré.
“I confirm that the warrant was issued at the beginning of the week,” said a source within the military tribunal, who declined to be named.
However, Soro said he had not been notified of the warrant.
“Only the government can give information on this. I am not aware of (the warrant),” he told Reuters.
Ivory Coast’s government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast were once part of the same French colony. Around 4 million citizens of Burkina Faso live in its wealthier southern neighbour, many of them farmers who have helped make Ivory Coast the world’s leading cocoa producer.
Soro and his New Forces rebels controlled northern Ivory Coast for eight years following a 2002 civil war and were accused by then-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s allies of receiving support from Compaoré. Burkina Faso denied the allegation.
The New Forces played a crucial role in Ivory Coast’s 2011 civil war, backing President Alassane Ouattara’s claim to leadership after Gbagbo refused to recognise his election defeat.
Burkina Faso, which has a long history of political turmoil, was plunged into fresh uncertainty in September, weeks before a planned October 11 presidential vote, when elite army leaders linked to former president Compaoré tried to seize power.
The attempted coup was foiled when angry citizens took to the streets. Its leaders were thrown behind bars and the presidential and general elections were re-scheduled for November 29.
Former prime minister Roch Marc Kaboré won that election, becoming only the third civilian president of nine in office since the country’s independence in 1960.
Compaoré, who himself came to power following a coup in 1987, was forced to flee the country in October 2014 following mass street protests against his bid to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.
He is currently living in exile in Ivory Coast.
Burkina Faso issued an international arrest warrant for Compaoré in December for his suspected role in the killing of his former comrade, ex-president Thomas Sankara, during the military coup that brought Compaoré to power.