of Burkina Faso The junta government late on Saturday ordered hundreds of French troops to leave the West African country within a month, en route to neighboring Mali. whose nation is also headed by a rebel leader.
National broadcaster RTB made the announcement, citing the state-run Agence de Information du Burkina. The news agency said the decision was taken on Wednesday to end the French military presence on Burkinabe territory.
Protesters took to the streets of the capital Ouagadougou last week to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador and the closure of a French military base north of the capital. About 400 French special forces soldiers are currently stationed there, France 24 reports.
The move by Burkina Faso’s government comes five months after France, along with regional troops, completed its withdrawal from Mali after nine years of fighting Islamist militants. Many of them now reside in Niger and Chad.
While the number of French troops in Burkina Faso is much smaller than in Mali — 400 special forces, compared to more than 2,400 troops — Saturday’s announcement added to growing concerns that Islamic extremists have taken advantage of the political disruption. have been and are using it to expand. their reach. Analysts have questioned whether the national armies of Burkina Faso and Mali are capable of filling the gap.
More than 60 years after Burkina Faso’s independence, French remains the official language and France maintains strong economic and humanitarian aid ties with its former colony. As the Islamic extremist insurgency has deepened, however, unrelenting violence has fueled anti-French sentiment.
After a second coup there last year, anti-French protesters began urging the junta to strengthen ties with Russia. Mali has already hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, which has been accused of widespread human rights abuses there and elsewhere.
The announcement on Saturday was welcomed by those who had run out of patience with France.
“Despite their presence on Burkinabe soil and their power at the intelligence level, they could not help us defeat terrorism,” said Passamde Sawadogo, a prominent civil society activist and reggae singer. “So it’s time we got rid of them, and that’s what the interim government is doing with great courage.”