Burkina Faso ends ties with French troops, orders them to leave

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Opinion

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Burkina Faso’s junta government late on Saturday ordered hundreds of French troops to leave the West African country within a month, following in the footsteps of neighboring Mali, which has also annexed the country. led by a coup leader.

The national broadcaster RTB made the announcement, citing the official Agence d’Information du Burkina. The news agency said the decision was made on Wednesday to suspend the French military presence on Burkinabe soil.

Protesters took to the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, last week to call for the expulsion of the French ambassador and the closure of a French military base north of the capital. About 400 French special forces fighters are currently stationed there, France 24 said.

The move by the Burkina Faso regime comes five months after France completed its withdrawal from Mali after nine years of fighting Islamist insurgency alongside regional troops. Many of these are now based in Niger and Chad instead.

While the number of French troops in Burkina Faso is far less than in Mali – 400 special forces, compared to more than 2,400 soldiers – Saturday’s announcement adds to the growing concerns that Islamic extremists are taking advantage of the political unrest and using it for expansion. the access. Analysts have questioned whether the national armies of Burkina Faso and Mali are able to fill the gap.

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

After the second coup there last year, anti-French activists began urging the junta to strengthen ties with Russia. Mali has already recruited Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, which is accused of widespread human rights abuses there and elsewhere.

Those who have lost patience with France welcomed the news on Saturday.

“Despite their presence on Burkinabe soil with large equipment and their power at the intelligence level, they could not help us overcome terrorism,” said Passamde Sawadogo, a prominent civil society activist and reggae singer. . “So it was time to get rid of them, and that is what the transitional government is doing with a lot of boldness. “

Associate reporter Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

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