The French government has recently announced its intention to honor Burkina Faso’s request for the withdrawal of French forces within a month. The decision was communicated by the French foreign ministry, which stated that on January 24th, the Burkinabe government formally denounced the 2018 agreement that regulated the presence of French troops in the West African nation. The ministry further emphasized that the denunciation will take effect one month after receipt of the written notification, and that France will comply with the terms of the agreement by fulfilling the request.
Burkina Faso has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency led by groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have seized large portions of land and displaced millions of people in the Sahel region, located south of the Sahara. The country’s trajectory is similar to that of Mali, as both nations have had a strained relationship with France following a military coup that brought a junta to power, and a growing public dissatisfaction with the French presence.
It is worth noting that the Burkinabe government has reassured France that it will not follow in Mali’s footsteps and seek support from Russia’s Wagner group, despite the fact that a liaison team from the mercenary group has already visited the country. Currently, France maintains a presence of 200-400 special forces in Burkina Faso. In 2020, French forces were withdrawn from Mali after the military junta there entered into an agreement with Russia’s Wagner group, composed of Russian army veterans and criminals, to operate in the country.
The French government’s decision to honor Burkina Faso’s request for the withdrawal of French forces is a delicate matter, as it reflects the intricate relationship between France and its former colonies in West Africa. The ongoing Islamist insurgency in the region has put pressure on France to maintain a military presence in order to safeguard its interests and support its allies, while also taking into account the need to respect the sovereignty and autonomy of these nations. The ramifications of this decision on the security scenario in Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel region remain to be seen.