On Jan. 25, France announced that it will pull its troops from the West African nation of Burkina Faso within a month. This would leave the military junta alone in their fight against militarist factions linked to terrorist organizations.
French forces gone
The French forces in Burkina Faso, consisting of 400 special forces troops, were given a month to leave the country, following a written request by the government.
“We will respect the terms of the agreement by honoring this request,” a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said, the BBC wrote.
On Jan. 25, France also announced that it would send back its ambassador to Burkina Faso, Luc Hallade to undergo consultations.
France had previously struck a military accord with Burkina Faso’s previous government in 2018, allowing a contingent of its troops to help suppress threats posed by armed groups connected to Islamist forces. Years later, the new military junta chose to withdraw from this accord, stating that it will face their enemies alone.
“This is not the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo told broadcaster RTB on Jan. 23.
In recent months, experts have warned that Burkina Faso could rely on the aid of the Russian mercenary group Wagner— just as Mali and the Central African Republic have done — to deal with Islamist forces. The junta has denied these accusations, though a liaison team from Wagner already visited, AFP reported.
These rumors disturbed the government of Ghana, fearing the presence of Russian mercenaries close to its border.
“To have them operating on our northern border is particularly distressing for us in Ghana,” Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo said, accusing Burkina Faso of collaborating with Wagner.
Burkina Faso’s military junta, led by Captain Ibrahim Traore, came to power last September via a military coup; the second in eight months.
The French withdrawal from Burkina Faso followed another earlier departure from nearby Mali, whose junta also took power via a coup. France still possesses military bases in Djibouti, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Niger and Senegal.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to reveal a new reshaping of his country’s military presence in Africa later this year, the New York Times reported.
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Demonstrations in Ouagadougou
On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators rallied in the capital city of Ouagadougou, cheering for the military junta following France’s announcement, an AFP journalist reported during the rally.
People carried signs sporting furious slogans like “Down with imperialism,” “Down with French policy in Africa” and “Forward for Burkina’s sovereignty,” Voice of America (VOA) wrote. Some even carried Russian flags in the midst of anti-French imagery.
“We do not want any more foreign military bases on our soil,” Lazare Yameogo, spokesperson for the Inter-African Revolutionary Movement told demonstrators. “We want respect and a win-win cooperation.
“We will remain on the lookout until Burkina Faso is liberated from Western imperialism,” he added.