France will withdraw its troops within “a month”

France will withdraw its troops from Burkina Faso within “a month” while the junta has denounced the defense agreements linking the two countries, a further decline in Paris’ influence in the Sahel. “Tuesday (…) we formally received the denunciation, by the Burkinabè government, of the 2018 agreement relating to the status of the French forces present in this country. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the denunciation takes effect one month after receipt of the written notification,” the French foreign ministry told AFP.

France will respect “the terms of this agreement by following up on this request”. Asked by AFP, the Burkinabè authorities were not immediately available on Wednesday to react.

400 French special forces in Burkina Faso

Burkina currently hosts a contingent of nearly 400 French special forces, the Saber force. The latter will have left the country “by the end of February” and the removal of all equipment should be completed “at the end of April”, a source familiar with the matter told AFP. According to concordant sources, the preferred option would then be to redeploy these elite soldiers to neighboring Niger, which hosts nearly 2,000 French personnel.

The Burkinabè government assured on Monday that it had requested the departure of the French soldiers within a month, without however wanting to break diplomatically with Paris. But France had replied to wait for clarifications from the transitional president Ibrahim Traoré.

Since coming to power in September following a putsch, Captain Traoré and his government have shown their desire to diversify their partnerships, particularly in the fight against jihadism, while Burkina has been sinking since 2015 into a spiral of violence. At the same time, the new authorities initiated a rapprochement with Russia. The Burkinabè prime minister paid a discreet visit to Moscow in December and declared two weeks ago that a partnership with Russia was “a choice of reason”.

France contested for several months

France has been contested for several months in Burkina, while the military presence of the former colonial power has not made it possible in particular to stem the attacks of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group in this among the poorest countries in the world. The Burkinabè authorities have not requested military aid from their partner since July 2022, according to the French general staff. In December, the junta had asked Paris to replace its ambassador, Luc Hallade, targeted in particular for having reported on the deterioration of the security situation in the country.

On Monday, the government spokesman, Jean-Emmanuel Ouédraogo, indicated that he had “received all the assurances that the French authorities will accede to this request this week”. But from diplomatic sources, his fate was not yet sealed. The Malian precedent is in everyone’s mind. After nine years of presence, the French soldiers completed their withdrawal from the country in August, pushed out by a hostile junta which called on the sulphurous Russian paramilitary company Wagner.

Junta won’t hire Wagner

Behind the scenes, the Burkinabè junta assures France that it does not intend to secure the services of Wagner, whose liaison team has come to prospect in Burkina, rich in mineral resources, according to several French sources. But the praetorian guard services offered by Russian mercenaries could end up seducing the military in power.

French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a reflection to rethink military partnerships on the African continent, which will have to stick to the specific requests of the countries and rely on less visible devices. Initial conclusions should be drawn “in the coming weeks”, from a government source. Some 3,000 French soldiers are still deployed in the Sahel, between Niger, Chad and Burkina.

Source: Europe1

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