Burkina Faso Denies Diplomatic Break With France and Presence of Wagner
France recalled its envoy to Burkina Faso on January 25 for “consultations”, a day after it announced plans to pull out French forces from the former colony after Ouagadougou suspended a 2018 military cooperation agreement. The full withdrawal is set to take place this February.
Burkina Faso has debunked claims of a diplomatic break with France.
Interim President Ibrahim Traore said that Ouagadougou’s diplomatic ties with Paris are still in place during a televised interview this week, assuring there is “no breaking off of diplomatic relations” between the two state or “hatred” of France
, despite the suspension of military cooperation with Paris.
“The French Embassy is here,” he said. “French nationals are here, just as ours are there, so diplomatically nothing has changed. This is about an agreement over military presence, and as they have said, our sovereignty is up to us, so that is what we are expressing through our denunciation of this agreement.”
Traore’s remarks came one week after his government suspended a 2018 military cooperation agreement that allowed the presence of French troops in the former colony in late-January.
Accordingly, Paris promised to pull out about 400 troops stationed at the Kamboinsin military base in the Burkinabe capital by February.
Later, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was recalling its envoy from Ouagadougou for “consultations on the state and prospects of our bilateral cooperation.”
The suspension of the military cooperation agreement came in the wake of repeated protests in Ouagadougou demanding the departure of France’s envoy to Burkina Faso, Luc Hallade, as well as French troops, which were assisting the West African nation in facing a years-long jihadist insurgency.
No Wagner Presence
President Traore also rejected claims promoted by western media about the presence of Russian private military companies in the country, saying such allegations are not true. He argued that even officials in his government were “surprised” to hear such allegations.
“We've heard everywhere in the press that Wagner is in Ouagadougou. That's also how we heard about it. I've asked some people who say, 'Oh really? Where are they?'” Traore said. “There's a general state of mind whereby if you deal with Wagner, everyone runs away from you, so it's something which has been created in order that everyone shuns us - well congratulations, good job.”
Military captain Ibrahim Traore was sworn in as head of Burkina Faso’s transitional government in September 2022 after overthrowing Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who came to power in a coup in January of the same year.
Both takeovers were the results of the political crisis in the West African country amid ongoing insecurity caused by terrorist groups linked to Daesh* and Al-Qaeda*. Authorities in Burkina Faso, which is part of the highly destabilized African Sahel region known to be a hotbed for terrorist activities and banditry, have been trying to curb terrorism since 2015.