Published on : 02/20/2023 – 09:11
The Burkinabè army announced on Sunday the end of the operations of the French Saber force in Burkina Faso. On January 18, the government denounced the defense agreements between the two countries, leaving the French Task Force one month to leave its soil, in a context of growing tensions between Paris and Ouagadougou.
End clap for the French special forces in Burkina Faso. The Burkinabè army announced on Sunday February 19 the end of the operations of Task Force Saber, a few weeks after the denunciation by the transitional government of the defense agreements linking the two countries, whose relations have deteriorated in recent months.
“The General Staff of the Armed Forces and the command of Task Force Saber organized this Saturday, February 18, 2023 within the grounds of Camp Bila Zagré, in Kamboincin (on the outskirts of Ouagadougou), a solemn flag lowering ceremony marking the official end of Task Force operations from Burkinabe soil,” the Burkinabe general staff announced in a statement.
According to the text, this ceremony was chaired by the head of the Burkinabe army, Colonel Adam Néré and French Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Lecacheur, representing the commander of the Saber force, a contingent of 400 special forces.
“The disengagement of the remaining Saber equipment and materials will be finalized by a team of logisticians deployed for this purpose, according to a schedule defined in agreement with the General Staff of the Armed Forces”, specifies the press release. The number of French soldiers still in Burkina was not known on Sunday evening.
According to a Burkinabè security source, “a large part of the soldiers have already left”. A French government source for its part indicated that French soldiers were still present in Burkina, without specifying the number.
Asked about the actual departure date of the last soldiers, a spokesman for the French army declined to communicate.
In a letter dated January 18, the Burkinabè government had denounced the agreement relating to the status of French forces in the country, giving them one month to leave the country. Paris had recorded this departure a week later.
“What we denounce is the agreement which allows French forces to be present in Burkina Faso. It is not about the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France”, declared the door – spokesperson for the Burkinabè government, Jean-Emmanuel Ouédraogo.
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Animosity towards the French authorities
France, a former colonial power, has been contested in Burkina for several months. If French Secretary of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, visiting Burkina on January 10, had hinted at a possibility of appeasement by announcing that “France imposes nothing” on Burkina, animosity towards the French authorities has developed in the country.
The day after the announcement of the departure of the French special forces from the country, several thousand people demonstrated in the capital Ouagadougou, in support of the ruling junta and for “sovereignty”.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs then recalled its ambassador to Burkina “to conduct consultations”. Louis Luc Hallade was in the crosshairs of the Burkinabè government, in particular for having reported on the deterioration of the security situation in the country.
The fight against jihadists was one of the main missions of the Saber force in Burkina Faso, the target of increasing attacks by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State since 2015 and the scene of two coups in 2022, the last having brought Captain Ibrahim Traoré to power in September.
The violence killed more than 12,000 people – civilians and soldiers – according to the NGO Acled, which lists the victims of conflicts around the world. Some two million people are internally displaced.
The Burkinabè government had said it wanted to “diversify its partners” in the anti-jihadist fight. Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyélem de Tambéla discreetly visited Russia last December.
On the French side, the preferred option is the redeployment of the Saber force in Niger, which already has nearly 2,000 French personnel.
Source: France 24