Burkina Faso Officially Ends French Military Operation

Following a flag-lowering ceremony at the French special forces’ camp on Saturday, Burkina Faso and France have officially marked the end of French military operations in the West African nation.

In January, Burkinabe armed forces ordered France to withdraw its troops in one month as it ended a military accord that allowed French troops to fight insurgents on its territory.

French military operations in Burkina Faso commenced August 1, 2014

The departure of French troops marks a new chapter in Burkina’s battle with al-Qaeda-backed terrorist groups which has wreaked havoc and displaced millions of people in the wider Sahel region.

General Staff of the Burkinabe Armed Forces said it had participated with the leadership of France’s Sabre special forces in “a solemn flag-lowering ceremony marking the official end of the Task Force’s operations on Burkinabe soil”.

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The departure of approximately 400 French special forces from Burkina Faso follows a diplomatic breakdown in relations that included Ouagadougou asking France to recall its ambassador.

Last year, protests by opponents of the French military presence in the country increased sharply, partly due to perceptions that France had not done enough to curb the militancy.

Earlier in February, group of anti-French protesters met each evening in Ouagadougou to watch out for signs of French withdrawal.

Some of the group also held Russian flags, a sign of the complicated political undercurrents shaping the region.

Both Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali are ruled by military juntas which seized power by force in the last two years, promising to improve security and look beyond their traditional allies for support.

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France pulled out its forces from Mali and moved to Niger Republic last year after the Malian leader started working with Russian military contractors.

Ghana has accused Burkina Faso of hiring mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, prompting Burkina’s interim president to deny such forces were in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron has described Russia’s influence in troubled African countries as “predatory” as France has seen its own clout in former colonies wane.

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