France to Leave Burkina Faso After Request

Posted by on Feb 2, 2023 in Stuff You Should Know, World

Go home, France! 

The military government in Burkina Faso along with protestors in the west African country’s capital of Ouagadougou made that demand in late January. In response, the French government removed its ambassador from Burkina Faso.  France also has agreed to withdraw its 400 special forces soldiers who are stationed there before the end of February 2023. France’s military is in Burkina Faso to help provide security against the growing threat of Islamist extremists there. 

Burkina Faso is a former French colony that gained its independence in 1960. Since then, France has maintained humanitarian and economic ties. The two countries agreed in 2018 to keep a French military presence there. But government leaders and many Burkinabé, as citizens of Burkina Faso are called, have complained that France has not done enough to prevent violence. Islamist extremist groups reportedly have killed thousands of Burkinabé and forced two million more to flee the country.  

About Burkina Faso  

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of Africa. The Sahel is bordered by the Sahara to the north and by the savanna to the south. Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries. Forty percent of its 22 million citizens were living in poverty in 2021. Many Burkinabé face food insecurity. Ninety percent of the population work as subsistence farmers, or people who grow enough food to eat but have little to nothing left over to sell. Fewer children attend school in Burkina Faso than anywhere else in Africa. 

The country has a history of political unrest, especially in the last year. There were two military coups in just eight months. in 2022. A coup is when a small group takes control over a sitting government and its armed forces, and it usually involves violence. In January 2022, Burkina Faso’s military seized power from democratically elected president Roch Kaboré. The new leader, Lt. Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, vowed to stop the Islamist extremist attacks. Then, in September 2022, Captain Ibrahim Traore forced Damiba out of power. Traore said Damiba wasn’t doing enough to stabilize the country. Traore promised to improve conditions and control violence. It was Traore and his supporters who ordered the French military to leave. 

Growing Extremism in the Sahel Region 

In 2013, France sent troops to Mali to help defeat Islamist extremist groups. Mali is another country in the Sahel region, and it borders Burkina Faso to the north. Like Burkina Faso, it also is a former French colony. Mali has seen the growth of Islamic extremists in the last 10 years. Many of these groups are linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Some extremists are still in Mali while others have spread out to other countries in the Sahel, including Burkina Faso. As a result of this spread, Burkina Faso consented to use French soldiers as peacekeeping forces. But violence continues there, and many Burkinabé have become frustrated with France. 

Burkina Faso’s resentment toward France is similar to what happened recently in Mali. Five months ago, Mali leaders commanded France to leave their country. The French agreed and removed 2,400 soldiers after nine years of providing support in Mali. Then, in December, Burkina Faso also demanded that France leave.  

What Happens Next in Burkina Faso? 

Experts say that Burkina Faso cannot defend itself against extremist groups without outside assistance. They believe that the military does not have the resources or technology to defend the country. It is possible that Burkina Faso could follow Mali’s lead and hire an organization to help. Mali is now being aided by soldiers from a private military company called Wagner, which has ties to Russia. Burkina Faso also could seek support from another country. In fact, Traore is said to be open to working with Russia. Some Burkinabé waved Russian flags during protests in Ouagadougou that called for the French to leave.  

It is likely that France and its allies in the United States would be concerned if Wagner or Russia joins forces with Burkina Faso. The U.S. government already has spoken out against Wagner. It says that Wagner has committed human rights abuses in Africa and has taken natural resources from the continent. For now, Traore and the military government will try to keep peace in Burkina Faso on their own.

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