Burkina Faso Officially Demands French Troops Leave, Paris Awaits “Explanations”

Burkina Faso has demanded the withdrawal of French troops from its soil within a month, an official document sent to AFP confirmed on Sunday, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he was awaiting “clarifications” from Ouagadougou on this new episode. Tensions between the two countries.

In a letter sent to Paris by the Burkinabe Foreign Ministry and dated Wednesday, the Sahelian country “fully condemns and terminates the Ouagadougou Agreement” of December 17, 2018 “regarding the position of the intervening French armed forces”.

Burkina currently has almost 400 French special forces, the Saber Force.

France is waiting for an “explanation”.

“Regarding the one-month notice period imposed by the said agreement at the time of the condemnation, the Burkinabe Ministry of Foreign Affairs appreciates giving particular due diligence to this upon receipt,” the document states. A Burkinabe diplomatic source could not confirm on Sunday whether Paris had acknowledged receipt of the letter.

When asked the question, the French presidency indicated that it was waiting for Burkinabe to confirm the position “at a high level”. On Sunday afternoon, President Emmanuel Macron said he was awaiting “clarifications” on a possible request for the withdrawal of French troops stationed in the country within a month from Burkina Faso.

Noting the “great confusion”, he explained at a press conference in Paris, he wanted to wait until the interim president of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traray, “can speak” and called for “very careful” on the matter.

A source close to the Burkinabe government told AFP on Saturday that Ouagadougou had asked “the French soldiers to leave as soon as possible”, confirming information from the Burkinabe Information Agency (AIB).

Demonstrations in Ouagadougou

Former colonial power France has been contesting Burkina Faso for months. In December, Burkinabe authorities asked Paris to replace Luc Hallade, the French ambassador in Ouagadougou.

Last Friday, several demonstrations took place in Ouagadougou, particularly demanding the withdrawal of French troops from the country.

Finally read: Emmanuel Macron outlines French military strategy for the next few years

On January 10, Paris sent Secretary of State Crisola Zakharopoulou to meet with the interim president there. “France is not imposing anything, finding the future together is available”, he stressed, “does not want to influence any choice or any decision, no one can dictate their wishes in Burkina”.

For the second time in eight months since coming to power in September, Captain Dreyro and his government have expressed their willingness to diversify their partnerships, particularly in the fight against jihadism that has undermined the country since 2015.

Possible rapprochement with Russia

Among the new partners envisioned by Ouagadougou, the question of possible rapprochement with Russia continues to be raised.

read more: Captain Ibrahim Drare was officially appointed as the President of Burkina Faso

After an interview with Russian Ambassador Alexei Saltykov, Burkinabe Prime Minister Apollinaire Guillaume de Dembele underlined last week that “Russia is a factor in this movement”, and “we believe that our partnership should be strengthened”. In early December, he paid a discreet visit to Moscow.

This call for French forces to leave recalls the example of neighboring Mali: Last summer, the military regime in power in Bamako ordered French forces to leave the country after a nine-year presence. Malian authorities began bringing in the Russian paramilitary group Wagner in late 2021, according to multiple sources, whose activities have been condemned in various countries, which the military regime denies.

Burkina Faso, particularly in its northern region, has faced increasing attacks by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State since 2015. Thousands of them died and at least two million were displaced.

On Thursday, around 30 people were killed in a series of attacks that affected several parts of the north and northwest of the country. Captain Ibrahim Traray aims to “recapture the territory occupied by this group of terrorists”.

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