Burkina Faso demands departure of French troops: Report | Political news

Army-ruled Burkina Faso is suspending the agreement with France and ordering troops to leave within a month, state media report.

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 last September.

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 Burkine’s military told AFP news agency that Ouagadougou is not cutting ties with France and that the “report only concerns military cooperation agreements”.

France has stationed some 400 special forces soldiers in Burkina Faso, which is battling groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).

The West African country is one of the poorest countries in the world and the conflict there, which had spread from Mali across the Sahel over the past decade, has claimed thousands of civilian lives. Anti-French sentiment in the country has surged in recent months amid perceptions that France’s military presence has failed to improve the security situation.

A woman holds her national flag and the Russian flag as people gather to show their support for Burkina Faso's new military leader, Ibrahim Traore.
A woman holds her national flag and the Russian flag as people gather to show their support for Burkina Faso’s new military leader, Ibrahim Traore, and to demand the departure of the French ambassador at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 20, 2023 [File: Vincent Bado/ Reuters]

“Despite their presence on Burkinabe soil with massive equipment and their intelligence-level power, they could not help us defeat terrorism,” said Passamde Sawadogo, a prominent civic activist and reggae singer.

“So it was about time we got rid of them, and the transitional government is doing that with a lot of guts,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

Hundreds of Burkinese also demonstrated against France on Friday, gathering in the capital Ouagadougou and demanding the expulsion of the French envoy and the closure of his military base in Burkina Faso.

They carried huge posters depicting the leaders of Mali and Guinea – both of whom also came to power through coups – and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mohamed Sinon, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said the rally was convened to show support for Burkinabe coup leader Captain Ibrahim Traore and the security forces fighting against 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 cooperation with Guinea and Mali,” he added.

Mali, also a former colony of Paris, had expelled French troops last year.

The last of the 2,400 French troops stationed there left in August after nine years of fighting al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups.

Many of them are now based in Niger and Chad instead.

Mali has now hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are accused of widespread human rights violations there and elsewhere.

A banner of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen during a protest in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
A banner of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen in the capital of Burkina Faso during a demonstration to demand the departure of the French ambassador and armed forces, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on January 20, 2023 [Olympia de Maismont/ AFP].

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