Burkina Faso has announced the official ending of the French military operation in the country.
The Burkinabe chief of general staff and the head of the French Sabre force attended what was described as a sombre flag lowering ceremony in a military barracks.
This follows a request by the Burkinabe junta on January 26, 2023, for French soldiers to leave the country. Their presence has become increasingly unpopular with crowds waving Russian flags following a coup last year.
Burkina Faso denies that Russian mercenaries are already operating on its territory.
“We are terminating the agreement which allows French forces to be in Burkina Faso. This is not the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” Spokesperson Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo disclosed at the time.
Burkina Faso has since 2015, been grappling with a militant insurgency that killed thousands and displaced around two million people. France had 400 special forces soldiers stationed in Burkina Faso to battle insurgency, but relations deteriorated in recent months.
France also withdrew its Barkhane forces from Mali in 2022 after the junta there allegedly worked with Wagner, a Russian military contractor.
It is likely that Burkina Faso will turn increasingly to Moscow just as its neighbour Mali has done. French troops were essentially replaced by Russian mercenaries last year.
Mali says they are doing a spectacular job. Independent evidence suggests otherwise.
Last year, Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, Executive Director of West Africa Center for Counter-Extremism (WACCE), said the recent withdrawal of European, mainly French, peacekeeping troops from the Sahel is a loss in the fight against jihadists.
Muqthar opined that it will enable Russia’s push to establish a strong foothold in Africa.
“Now that we are seeing the withdrawal of the French forces, which is followed by the other European partners, is a big blow to the region and to all of us here along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.”Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar
Muqthar added that focusing solely on using combat to fight terrorism in West Africa is not the best way to go, saying it failed in the Sahel regions.
“Combat measures are very important to hold territories and to stop these extremists. But it’s not enough to sustain any gains relating to combating terrorism. We need to match it with significant noncombat measures, which is the people. It’s important that military measures must be development linked and must be linked to the realities of the problem because people don’t just wake up to fight.”Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar
MSF Suspends All Activities in Burkina Faso
Also, Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) which translates to Doctors Without Borders, has suspended its activities in Burkina Faso.
In a statement, the group revealed that, it is suspending all of its activities in the country following the attack in which two MSF staff were killed on February 8 in the Boucle du Mouhoun region.
This measure, necessary for the time of mourning, is essential to analyze the risks to which our teams are currently exposed, the statement added.
“We also want to reaffirm the unacceptable nature of this attack against colleagues traveling in a clearly marked MSF vehicle during their medical work. In all locations where MSF supports and provides medical and humanitarian aid in Burkina Faso, we will only respond to life-saving emergencies for an indefinite period.”Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF)
While the withdrawal of the French troops raises concerns over the growing presence of terror groups in the region, the junta in Burkina Faso has recruited 50,000 armed civilian auxiliaries to join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP), to fight the violent extremists currently occupying nearly half of the country.
The recruitment campaign, launched in October 2022 by Burkina Faso’s authorities after the September 30 coup, ended on November 18, 2022.