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France’s Grip on West Africa Loosens As Burkina Faso Demands Withdrawal of French Troops

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Burkina Faso has called for the immediate withdrawal of French troops stationed in the country to fight terrorism. Government spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo corroborated early reports on Monday. Since 2018, 400 special forces agents have been posted in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region to combat Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State following years of violence.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed he was awaiting clarifications from Burkina Faso’s transitional President, Ibrahim Traore.

“We are terminating the agreement which allows French forces to be in Burkina Faso,” Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo, a spokesperson for the junta, told Radio-Television Burkina. “This is not the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” he said. “This termination is normal and is foreseen in the terms of the agreement.” Ouedraogo added that the ruling military and the whole country wanted “to be the prime actors in the recapture of our territory.”

The move will likely amplify the country’s desire to deepen its ties with Russia. Since Traore’s coup in September, anti-French sentiment against the former colony has only heightened.

Burkina Faso and Mali are ruled by military governments that seized power by force in the last two years. Last year, France pulled its troops from neighboring Mali amid criticism of its alleged “stranglehold” on the continent’s economy. France has a turbulent history in Africa, with nearly a third of the continent having been under French control at some point in its history. China appears to have taken France’s spot as Africa’s most significant foreign influencer, controlling 17% of the African market.

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