Following a deterioration in bilateral relations in recent months, Burkina Faso declared on Sunday that French military operations in the West African nation were now completely over.
Senior officers from the Burkinabe and French forces in the nation held a flag-lowering ceremony to commemorate the event on Saturday at a camp outside of the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou, according to a statement from the Burkinabe army.
After Burkina Faso’s ruling junta demanded the force leave within four weeks, France announced last month that it would withdraw its contingent of hundreds of soldiers stationed there.
The request was made just a few days after Burkina’s Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem de Tembela said that Russia would make a “reasonable” new ally in the fight against jihadists.
Following the announcement, government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo told RTV that “this does not mean the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France.”
Days after that announcement, some of the soldiers left.
Another important step has been taken in the reduction of France’s military presence in the area with their departure.
The anti-jihadist Barkhane mission there was terminated in 2022 by French President Emmanuel Macron after a decade at the behest of the junta in neighboring Mali.
The jihadist attacks in the area keep happening.
The influence of Russia
Western nations are concerned about Russia’s growing influence as French forces leave the area, especially in light of the presence of mercenaries from the Wagner group led by a Putin ally.
A logistics team sent for this purpose will complete France’s military disengagement, including the equipment and materials involved, according to a statement from the Burkinabe army.
The majority of the (French) soldiers have already left, according to a security source from Burkina.
The Burkina Faso army chief of staff, Colonel Adam Nere, and the French Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Lecacheur, who has been in charge of the 400 special forces soldiers stationed in Burkina under a task force known as Sabre, presided over the ceremony marking the end of operations on Saturday.
A French army spokesman was asked when the last soldiers would actually depart, but he declined to comment.
Three militarily-ruled nations in the volatile Sahel region—Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea—were still under the sanctions of the ECOWAS regional bloc on Sunday.
After experiencing military takeovers since 2020, the three troubled countries were expelled from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, said in a speech to the African Union summit on Saturday that the pan-African alliance needed to consider fresh tactics to fend off the reversal of democracy.
France announced last month that it would be removing its large contingent of soldiers stationed in Burkina Faso.
He claimed that sanctions imposed on member states in response to unconstitutional political changes “do not seem to produce the expected results.”
Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been shaken by a jihadist insurgency that spread from nearby Mali in 2015. In 2022, there were two military coups in the nation.
Over two million people have fled their homes, thousands have been killed, and about 40% of the country is not under government control.
Following the shooting deaths of two of its employees by armed men last week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced on Friday that it was suspending the majority of its work in Burkina Faso.