Burkina Faso ends ties with French troops, orders departure

Burkina Faso’s junta government late Saturday ordered hundreds of French troops to depart the West African country within a month, following...


Burkina Faso’s junta government late Saturday ordered hundreds of French troops to depart the West African country within a month, following in the path of neighboring Mali, whose nation is also headed by a coup leader.

National broadcaster RTB made the announcement, citing the official Agence d’Information du Burkina. The news agency said the decision had been made Wednesday to end the presence of France’s military on Burkinabe soil.

Protesters took to the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, last week to call for the ouster of the French ambassador and the closure of a French military base north of the capital. About 400 French special forces soliders are currently based there, France 24 reported.

The move by Burkina Faso’s regime comes five months after France completed its withdrawal from Mali after nine years fighting Islamic extremists alongside regional troops. Many of those are now based in Niger and Chad instead.

While the number of French troops in Burkina Faso is far smaller than it was in Mali — 400 special forces, compared to more than 2,400 soldiers — Saturday’s announcement adds to the growing concerns that Islamic extremists are capitalizing on the political disarray and using it to expand their reach. Analysts have questioned whether the national militaries of Burkina Faso and Mali are capable of filling in the void.

More than 60 years after Burkina Faso’s independence, French remains an official language and France has maintained strong economic and humanitarian aid ties with its former colony. As the Islamic extremist insurgency has deepened, however, anti-French sentiment has spiked due in part to the unabating violence.

After the second coup there last year, which was led by junior military officer Ibrahim Traore, anti-French protesters began urging the junta to instead strengthen ties with Russia. Mali already has hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who have been accused of widespread human rights abuses there and elsewhere.

Saturday’s announcement was welcomed by those who had lost patience with France.

“Despite their presence on Burkinabe soil with huge equipment and their power at the intelligence level, they couldn’t help us defeat terrorism,” said Passamde Sawadogo, a prominent civil society activist and reggae singer. “It therefore was time for us to get rid of them, and that’s what the transition government is doing with a lot of boldness.”


Burkina Faso’s new self-proclaimed putsch leader on Sunday called for an end to violence against French targets, after a series of attacks against buildings linked to the former colonial power.

“Things are progressively returning to order, so we urge you to freely go about your business and to refrain from any act of violence and vandalism ... notably those that could be perpetrated against the French Embassy and the French military base,” an officer said, reading on television from a statement from Captain Ibrahim Traore, who stood by his side.

Dozens of supporters of Traore gathered at the French Embassy in the capital. Security forces fired tear gas from inside the compound to disperse the protesters after they set fire to barriers outside and lobbed rocks at the structure, with some trying to scale the fence.

The latest unrest began on Friday, when junior military officers announced they had toppled the country’s junta leader, sparking deep concern among world powers over the latest putsch to hit the Sahel region battling a growing insurgency.

Late on Saturday, the junta leader, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, said he had no intention of giving up power and urged the officers to “come to their senses.”

His comments came shortly after the army general staff dismissed the coup as an “internal crisis” within the military and said dialogue was “ongoing” to remedy the situation.

The capital remained tense overnight, with demonstrators gathering on the main roads of Ouagadougou as a helicopter hovered above.

In a statement read out on television on Sunday, the officers who claimed the coup said they had lifted a curfew they had imposed and called for a meeting of ministry heads for later in the day.

The officers had accused Damiba of having hidden at a military base of former colonial power France to plot a “counteroffensive,” charges that he and France denied.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned “the violence against our embassy in the strongest terms” by “hostile demonstrators manipulated by a disinformation campaign against us.”

It marked the latest incident against a France-linked building in two days, after a fire at the embassy on Saturday and a blaze in front of the French Institute in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso. A French institute in the capital also sustained major damage, the ministry said.

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