West News Wire: Following the Burkinabe government’s formal rejection of a status of forces agreement from 2018, the French government declared on Wednesday that its troops will depart Burkina Faso within a month. As part of a mission to fight terrorism, special forces soldiers from the former colonial power had been stationed in the country of West Africa.
The demarche from Ouagadougou was officially received by the French Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, giving France a 30-day withdrawal notice.
The Quai d’Orsay issued a statement stating, “We will follow the conditions of the agreement by honoring this request.” The equipment will depart Burkina Faso by late April, according to AFP, and the troops will do so by the end of February.
An estimated 400 French troops have been in Burkina Faso for years as part of Operation Sabre, a counter-insurgency targeting jihadists in the former African colonies. Frustrated with the fruitless campaign, the Burkinabe military ousted the civilian president in a coup last January. The coup leader, French-educated Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, was then overthrown by Captain Ibrahim Traore in September.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Ouagadougou last Friday to demand the French departure. Some chanted anti-French slogans, while others waved Russian flags. According to the Agence d’Information du Burkina, the Traore government had made the decision to expel the former colonial power two days prior. France responded by seeking clarification from the former colony.
Burkina Faso’s move comes less than six months after its neighbor Mali also sent the French troops packing. Paris had fought Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda affiliates for nine years. France blamed Russia for Mali’s change of heart.
The military government in Bamako has since reached out to the Russian private military company Wagner Group, following the example of the Central African Republic. The Burkinabe government has not made any deals with Wagner yet.
Burkina Faso has a population of about 20 million and is landlocked between Mali and Niger in the north, and Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire in the south. All were French colonies at some point, except Ghana which had been ruled by the British.