BURKINA Faso’s military regime told France it wants its troops stationed in the country to leave within a month, the state news agency AIB reported on Saturday. This came as protesters gathered to demand the French ambassador leave the country and that the French military base in Ouagadougou be closed.
‘The Burkinabe government last Wednesday denounced the accord which has governed, since 2018, the presence of French armed forces on its territory,’ the AIB news agency said, adding that authorities had given France a month to complete its pull-out.
A source close to the government clarified it was ‘not the severance of relations with France. The notification only concerns military cooperation agreements.’
France has 400 special forces soldiers stationed in junta-ruled Burkina to battle an Islamist insurgency, but relations have deteriorated in recent months.
Sources familiar with the matter told AFP that France’s preferred option would be to redeploy its forces in the south of neighbouring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already stationed.
Inching closer to Russia
The military junta, led by Captain Ibrahim Traore, seized power last September in the second coup in the former French colony in eight months.
Traore’s regime has been seeking to rekindle ties with Russia since his coup.
French troops withdrew from Mali last year after a 2020 coup in the former French colony saw its rulers also inch closer to Russia.
Demonstrators gathered in Burkina’s capital Ouagadougou on Friday to demand the French ambassador leave the country and that the French military base there be closed.
Several hundred flocked to a central square carrying placards with slogans such as ‘French army, get out.’
Protesters carried huge posters showing the presidents of Mali and Guinea — both of whom also came to power in coups — as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier Saturday, several hundred people demonstrated in two major northern towns, Djibo and Kongoussi, both of which have been subjected to jihadist raids and a blockade that has made it increasingly difficult for them to receive supplies.
Mounting anti-French sentiment
In October, anti-France demonstrators gathered outside the country’s embassy in Ouagadougou and the French cultural centre was attacked.
Another demonstration outside the embassy followed in November, and earlier this month, the French foreign ministry said the junta had asked it to replace ambassador Luc Hallade after he ruffled feathers with reports on Burkina’s worsening security situation.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso on Saturday thanked its northern neighbour Mali for its help in the recent rescue of 66 women, children and babies from suspected jihadists after a week of captivity.
Government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo also told RTB state television that all of the 66 freed captives, who included 27 minors and four babies, were doing well.
‘All arrangements have been made for them to regain serenity and after all that, we can consider their return to their respective families,’ he added.
The captives were abducted by suspected jihadists in the northern Sahel region a little over a week ago.