Burkina Faso president takes defence portfolio in new cabinet

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, pictured on September 4, 2015, kept the defence and veterans' affairs portfolio for himself in the new government (AFP Photo/Patrick Kovarik)

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Burkina Faso's new President Roch Marc Christian Kabore took the helm of the defence ministry as he unveiled a new government lineup Wednesday in a nation with a history of coups.

Kabore, only the third civilian president of nine in office since independence in 1960, kept the defence and veterans' affairs portfolio for himself as had his predecessor Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown by an uprising in 2014.

Reform of the army is a key consideration in a country where the military has often played a disproportionate role in politics and whose history is peppered with coups and attempts to overthrow the government.

Headed by Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba, a former economist and central banker, the 30-member cabinet includes seven women, among them Aridjatou Rosine Coulibaly Sori who takes up the key economy and finance portfolio.

Longtime mayor of the capital Ouagadougou, Simon Compaore -- no relation to the ousted former leader -- becomes deputy head of the government and takes on decentralisation and interior security.

Foreign affairs meanwhile went to a former journalist, Alpha Barry, who founded FM radio Omega and worked as a correspondent for Paris-based French-language network Radio France Internationale.

"This is a fighting government, a government which will be engaged," Thieba told reporters.

"Given the sacrifices made by our youth and our people, it is up to us to rise to the challenge, to concentrate on the struggle we must wage against underdevelopment, injustice, impunity and poverty," he said.

- A strict ethical code -

Thieba also said his ministers would observe a strict code of ethics and good behaviour, saying he would not tolerate any breaches.

"Every time there is a failure in terms of ethics or integrity, there will be zero tolerance," he said.

Kabore, the first civilian to be democratically elected leader of this poor west African country, was elected with more than 53 percent of the vote in November's presidential poll and has pledged to reform institutions and modernise the government through greater social justice, democracy and freedom.

He vowed to build "a new Burkina Faso" by fighting youth unemployment, improving education and modernising the health system in this country of 17.4 million where more than 46 percent of people live below the poverty threshold.

As well as bolstering democracy, the government must also tackle huge youth unemployment in a nation where 70 percent of the population is under 30.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in October 2014 when Compaore sought to extend his rule, forcing him to step down after ruling the country with an iron fist for 27 years.