Mon, 27 Mar 2023

Capt. Ibrahim Traore, Burkina Faso's junta leader, said his country has not severed diplomatic ties with France, despite asking it to withdraw its forces, and denied Russian Wagner mercenaries were in the country.

Paris recently recalled its ambassador to Burkina Faso after agreeing to demands from the ruling military junta to pull out its troops.

In his first public comments since then, Captain Ibrahim Traore insisted Burkina had not broken ties with France -its former colonial power.

"The end of diplomatic agreements, no!" Traore said in a television interview with Burkinabe journalists on Friday. "There is no break in diplomatic relations or hatred against a particular state."

Traore, who came to power in a military coup last October, vowing to win back territory from jihadists, went on to deny that there were mercenaries from the Wagner Group deployed in Burkina Faso.

Wagner, a Russian mercenary group founded in 2014, has been involved in conflicts in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Ukraine.

"We've heard everywhere that Wagner is in Ouagadougou," he said, adding that it was a rumour "created so that everybody would distance themselves from us".

"We have our Wagner, it is the VDP that we recruit," he said, referring to the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland civilian auxiliaries. "They are our Wagner."

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He said that "all the people want is their sovereignty, to live with dignity. It doesn't mean leaving one country for another".

Paris confirmed last month that its special forces troops, deployed to help fight a seven-year long jihadist insurgency, would leave within a month.

Burkina Faso confirms deadline for withdrawal of French troops

Under President Macron, France was already drawing down its troops across the Sahel region, which just a few years ago numbered more than 5,000.

About 3,000 remain, but the forced departures from Mali and Burkina Faso - as well as the Central African Republic to the south last year - underline growing anti-French sentiment.

(with AFP)

Originally published on RFI

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