West News Wire: The France24 TV channel was outlawed by Burkina Faso’s administration after it aired an interview with the head of Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate. While French and Burkinabe forces recently engaged in joint operations against jihadists, this year the African country severed ties with its former colonizer master.
The minister of communication for Burkina Faso, Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo, made the following statement on Monday: “France 24 is not only acting as a mouthpiece for these terrorists, but worse, it is providing a space for the legitimization of terrorist actions and hate speech.”
Yezid Mebarek, who assumed leadership of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIB) in 2020 after French troops killed his predecessor, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in a raid in neighboring Mali, was interviewed by the French state-owned broadcaster earlier this month.
France24 said that the statement was based on “unfounded allegations,” and that it never gave Mebarek “the floor directly.” The channel said in a statement that it reported the terrorist leader’s words via one of its journalists.
The dispute comes amid growing dissatisfaction with France in Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel region. French forces have been deployed in West Africa since 2013, and launched numerous anti-terror raids in Burkina Faso until their presence in the country was formalized in a 2018 agreement with Burkinabe authorities.
However, the troops were given one month to leave the country in January, after the Burkinabe military seized power in a coup in October. Earlier this month, the The Burkinabe foreign ministry scrapped a 1961 agreement on military assistance with France, which had been in force since Paris granted the Republic of Upper Volta, as Burkina Faso was previously known, its independence.
A similar situation developed in Mali, with Colonel Assimi Goita ordering the French military to leave his country last year after coming to power in a coup in 2021.
In both nations, anger had grown over France’s failure to contain a region-wide jihadist insurgency. Both have since strengthened diplomatic ties with Russia, and looked to Moscow for military assistance in the fight against terrorism.