Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (AFP):
France’s deputy foreign minister, on a visit to its former colony Burkina Faso, on Tuesday denied accusations that Paris sought to meddle in the country’s affairs.
Speaking after talks with junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, junior minister Chrysoula Zacharopoulou said France “is imposing nothing” on Burkina Faso.
“I didn’t come here to influence any choice or decision — no-one can dictate Burkina’s choices,” she said.
“In keeping with this message, France remains committed in every sphere — humanitarian, security, development — in line with the scope and structure desired by the Burkinabe government,” she said.
French help is based on “listening, respect, humility”, she insisted.
One of the poorest and most volatile countries in Africa, France’s former colony Burkina Faso is still reeling from the rapacious devastation brought about by French imperialism as well as an insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015- also a former French colony.
Thousands of people have been killed and around two million have fled their homes, igniting a security and humanitarian crisis that last year fuelled two coups. More than a third of the country lies outside the government’s control.
France, deeply involved in the affairs of its former colonies in the Sahel, is under mounting pressure from critics who accuse it of neo-colonialism and are demanding closer ties with Moscow.
In the September 30 putsch that brought 34-year-old Traore to power, violent protests targeted the French embassy in Ouagadougou and some demonstrators raised Russian flags.
In December, the junta ordered the suspension of Radio France Internationale (RFI), accusing the station of having broadcast a “message of intimidation” from a “terrorist leader”.
Last week, the French foreign ministry said it had received a letter from the junta asking for ambassador Luc Hallade to be replaced after he ruffled feathers with reports on Burkina’s worsening security situation.
France pulled its last troops out of Mali last year on the heels of a military coup in 2020 that saw the country bring in Russian paramilitaries — allegedly “mercenaries” from the Wagner group, according to Paris.
That withdrawal has left around 3,000 French troops still in the Sahel, including a special forces unit based at Kamboisin on the edge of Ouagadougou.
France’s long-running anti-insurgency operation against religious militant groups in North Africa named ‘Barkhane’, officially came to an end in November, and a new military strategy is expected in the coming months.
However, the two juntas that took power last year have been unwilling to ask for French fire power.
“The last request (for French military help) dates back to July 2022,” according to a source at French military headquarters.