The decision was made in response to demands made by the military authorities of the Sahel country for Paris to remove its French troops.
The French armed forces will depart Burkina Faso within the next month at the request of the country’s military junta, the country’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday, significantly reducing France’s involvement in a region witnessing a rising Islamist insurgency.
French officials confirmed in a statement made on Wednesday that they had received notification of the termination of a 2018 agreement governing the presence of French troops in the country.
Residents of Ouagadougou, the country’s capital, took to the streets on Friday to demonstrate against the deployment of French forces in the country. Opponents of the French military presence in Burkina have escalated their demonstrations, this is in part due to the opinion that France had failed to combat the growth of Islamist insurgency in the region, which has emerged in neighbouring Mali in recent years.
Following a military coup and subsequent deterioration in diplomatic ties with the Malian government, last year the country’s leadership urged the French military forces to withdraw and stationed Russian private security contractors in their place.
On Thursday, France’s foreign ministry announced that it was withdrawing its ambassador from Burkina Faso, citing “the context of recent developments”, this comes only one day after Paris announced that it would be removing its soldiers from the African country.
“We have decided to recall our ambassador in Paris, to conduct consultations on the state and perspectives of our bilateral cooperation”, according to a statement from the ministry.
The Present Situation
Burkina Faso is well recognised as both one of the continent’s most impoverished and politically unstable nations. Since extremists affiliated to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) started a campaign of violence from neighbouring Mali in 2015, thousands of military, police, and civilians have been slain, and almost two million people have abandoned their homes.
More than a third of the nation is outside of the jurisdiction of the government, and the resentment within the army over the growing toll was the impetus for two coups in the past year.
French defence and diplomatic sources have indicated that the special troops might be sent to Niger, where a major presence of French and European personnel are now stationed. Additionally, there is a significant French military presence in the Chadian territory.
It was verified by a representative for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the government of Burkina Faso had formally requested in writing that French troops withdraw from the country.
“We will respect the terms of the agreement by honouring this request,” the spokesperson stated.
In the most recent incident, approximately sixty women were abducted while they were searching for food in the northern part of the country. Earlier in the month, the bodies of twenty-eight people who had been shot to death were discovered in the town of Nouna, which is located in the northwestern part of the country. Since then, women have been allowed to go free.
Since Captain Ibrahim Traoré seized command in Burkina Faso in September, there has been significant suspicion that he may start working with Russian mercenaries. Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, claimed that mercenaries from the Russian private military firm Wagner had been allowed into Burkina Faso by the country’s military administration.
During a news conference on December 16, the Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, Jean Marie Traoré, termed the allegations “very serious.” The administration had already summoned the Ghanaian ambassador. Despite the fact that Burkina Faso has refuted claims that it may also engage the Wagner Group against the jihadists, the news agency AFP has reported that a liaison team from the mercenaries has already visited the country.
The Way Forward
Capt. Traoré has made a commitment to retaking the region that was taken by the jihadists and to holding democratic elections in July 2024.
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