Burkina Faso gives French troops one month to leave
Burkina Faso’s military government has ordered French troops stationed in the West African country to leave within a month.
The decision, announced by the official Agence d’Information du Burkina (AIB) on Saturday, is the latest sign of deteriorating relations between France and its former colony since a second military coup in September of last year.
The AIB said the military government on Wednesday suspended a 2018 military accord that allowed the presence of French troops in the country. There was no immediate comment from Paris.
A source close to the Burkinabe military told the AFP news agency that Ouagadougou was not severing relations with France and that the “notification only concerns military cooperation agreements”.
France has some 400 special forces soldiers stationed in Burkina Faso, which is battling groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).
The West African nation is one of the world’s poorest countries and the conflict there, which had spread across the Sahel from Mali over the past decade, has killed thousands of civilians. In recent months, anti-French sentiment has spiked in the country amid perceptions that France’s military presence has not improved the security situation.
“Despite their presence on Burkinabe soil with huge equipment and their power at the intelligence level, they couldn’t help us defeat terrorism,” said Passamde Sawadogo, a prominent civil society activist and reggae singer.
“It therefore was time for us to get rid of them, and that’s what the transition government is doing with a lot of boldness,” he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency.
Hundreds of Burkinabes also demonstrated against France on Friday, rallying in the capital, Ouagadougou, demanding the expulsion of the French envoy and the closure of its military base in Burkina Faso.
They carried huge posters showing the leaders of Mali and Guinea — both of whom also came to power in coups — as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mohamed Sinon, one of the organisers of the demonstration, said the rally was called to show support for Burkinabe coup leader Captain Ibrahim Traore and the security forces fighting al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).
“We are a pan-African movement and we want cooperation between Burkina Faso and Russia, but also the strengthening of friendship and of cooperation with Guinea and Mali,” he added.
Mali, also a former colony of Paris, had ordered French troops out of the country last year. The last of the 2,400 French troops stationed there left in August after nine years fighting al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups.
Many of those are now based in Niger and Chad instead. Mali has now hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who have been accused of widespread human rights abuses there and elsewhere.