The rag continues to burn between Paris and Ouagadougou and this could benefit Moscow, which is advancing its pawns in the region. Burkina Faso on Wednesday demanded the departure of French troops from its soil within a month.
The government denounced “the agreement which since 2018 has governed the presence of the French armed forces on its territory”, indicated the Burkinabe Information Agency. “This denunciation made on January 18, 2023 gives, under the terms of the agreement of December 17, 2018, one month to the French Armed Forces to leave Burkinabe territory”.
The president launches the “fight for sovereignty”
According to a source close to the government, the authorities have requested “the departure of French soldiers as soon as possible”. But, “it is not the rupture of relations with France. The notification relates only to military cooperation agreements”.
On Tuesday, the transitional president, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who came to power in a putsch at the end of September, told students that the “fight for sovereignty” was “committed”. “In the hours to come you will see a certain amount of information tending to review our relations with certain States”.
Several demonstrations against France
According to sources familiar with the matter, the option favored by France would be to redeploy these special forces in the south of neighboring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already present.
France, a former colonial power, has been contested in Burkina Faso for several months. Several demonstrations, the last Friday, have thus recently taken place in Ouagadougou to demand its withdrawal from this Sahelian country, which hosts a contingent of nearly 400 French special forces. Last week, Paris sent Secretary of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou to meet the transitional president there. “France does not impose anything, it is available to invent a future together”, she hammered.
Russia in ambush
The authorities of Burkina have recently expressed their desire to diversify their partnerships, particularly in the fight against jihadism, which has undermined the country since 2015. Among the new partners envisaged, the question of a possible rapprochement with Moscow is regularly raised. “Russia is a choice of reason in this dynamic”, and “we believe that our partnership must be strengthened”, underlined last week the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso Apollinaire Kyélem de Tembela, after an interview with the Russian Ambassador Alexey Saltykov. At the beginning of December, he had made a discreet visit to Moscow.
Last summer, the junta in power in neighboring Mali ordered French forces to leave the country after nine years of presence. Multiple sources report that Bamako began bringing in the Russian paramilitary group Wagner at the end of 2021, whose actions are decried in various countries, which the junta denies.