Burkina Faso ordered French troops to leave the country and brought in Russian advisors

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Amid growing terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region, the ruling junta in Burkina Faso has kicked out France and brought in Russian advisors, including the infamous Wagner Group whose human rights abuses have earmarked every country to which it has been deployed.

Burkina Faso has steadfastly denied that Wagner mercenaries are in the country.

In January, Burkina Faso ordered the French to vacate its military base at Kamboincin, which housed 400 French special operators that were part of the Takuba Task Force. After being given a month to vacate, the French forces departed on February 18. Following the French military’s withdrawal, the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres also suspended its operations in the country. France had deployed troops to Burkina Faso, one of its former colonies, to help it counter the spread of terrorism.

During and immediately after the drawdown, Burkinabe forces were ambushed in two separate attacks losing approximately 70 troops. 

Related: Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s terrorism hotspot and military might alone won’t solve that, according to the UN

About 40% of the territory of Burkina Faso is controlled by terrorist groups and it is unsure how Wagner mercenaries, who are unfamiliar with the country, will help to push back those groups.

The departure of French troops from Burkina Faso comes a year after neighboring Mali had demanded that French troops stationed there also leave.

Terrorist attacks from Islamist jihadist groups allied to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have reached new levels in the Sahel. Millions have been displaced and thousands have been killed with 3,600 killed in the Sahel just last year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). 

Yet, France isn’t abandoning the region. French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has pledged increased support for the neighboring Ivory Coast against terrorism.

“We will strengthen cooperation with Ivory Coast in terms of training and equipment because it is an important country for us,” Lecornu said.

France and several other European countries have also stationed troops in Niger.

Feature Image: A Technamm Masstech VPS2 4×4 used by French Special Forces of Task Force Takuba during Operation Barkhane, August 2020. (French Army Twitter)

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Steve Balestrieri