Burkina Faso: The government asks France to withdraw its troops

The relationship between France and the West African country Burkina Faso took a new turn this week. This comes as the country’s military rulers demanded that France, a former coloniser, withdraw its troops from their nation.

France has had troops in the country since an agreement in 2018, the French ministry announced to the media that they had been informed to leave and the agreement mentioned earlier terminated.

This is a precarious situation because violence and disarray by armed groups have been on a scary rise in the country, one would think that at this moment foreign help might be appreciated to help curtail it, but that has not been the case.

The statement read, “In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the denunciation takes effect one month after receipt of the written notification. We will comply with the terms of this agreement by complying with this request.”

Luc Hallade, left, the French ambassador to Burkina Faso, in Ouagadougou. Photo: Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty Images

Digging deeper, it seems that things are more complicated than it looks and that might give some understanding of the decision. France retains a measly 200 – 400 special forces in Burkina Faso and it’s difficult to see how much help they really are in managing the crisis. That is not to downplay their importance, however.

This decision has been corroborated by the official government, but the timing was also sketchy. Although it was announced by the government on Monday, the french ministry only got official correspondence days later.

A protester holds a sign that reads, “France’s army get out from our country,” as people gather to show their support to Burkina Faso’s new military leader Ibrahim Traore, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 20, 2023. Photo; Reuters/VOA

It does seem like a rushed or nuanced decision, but looking into Burkina Faso we can see why. Citizens have the country have been protesting against the French military presence for a while now. Although the official records state that France only keeps a small number of forces in the country, the people say that the number has been on a steady rise for no reason. The forces have not been able to help quell the violence that continues to spread. It is ominous that although the violence being spoken of is mainly an overspill from the neighbouring country Mali, the Malian government had last year also asked the French government to withdraw its troops, contracting Russian forces instead.

For Burkina Faso, the problem is compounded by the loose governmental stability and reach over the country. About a third of the country is out of the reach of the government and the army has been toiling in distrust and infighting. In fact, there were 2 military coups just last year alone.

In light of the decision to withdraw troops, France also recalled the French ambassador to the country.

“In the context of the latest developments in Burkina Faso, we have decided to recall our ambassador in Paris, to conduct consultations on the state and prospects for our bilateral cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry told the press.

Burkina Faso is in a dire situation and needs to take their security affairs seriously. An impoverished nation still struggling with the effects of economic downturn post the epidemic in 2022, having thousands killed and millions of people displaced because of violence wrecked by forces from Mali is not a good condition for a country to thrive. The forces are serious and linked to ISIL, so there needs to be a conscious and effective plan to push them out of the country.

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Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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