Calls for calm after anti-French protests in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s leaders are calling for calm after hundreds of demonstrators, some carrying Russian flags, took to the capital’s streets on Friday calling for French troops and the French ambassador to leave the country.

Police used tear gas on protesters who were mainly gathered at the French embassy in the capital, Ouagadougou, and a nearby French military base in Komboinse.

Russia is seen by some as an antagonist to France and potential replacement ally.There have been regular anti-France rallies since the latest military coup in September, which brought Captain Ibrahim Traoré to power.

France has had a military base in Burkina Faso for several years, on the basis of cooperation agreements signed after independence in 1960. This situation is regularly criticised by civil society organisations and activists.

In its statement, the Burkinabè government called on the youth in particular not to be distracted, and to focus on the objectives of operational defence in the fight against jihadist-led violence and on development projects, instead of protesting.

The authorities have also sought to reassure the international community that they will not deviate from the rules and principles protecting diplomats present on Burkinabè soil.

The latest coup in Burkina Faso saw young people waving Russian flags in the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou – something that must have warmed hearts in the Kremlin.

Although fairly small in number, it has prompted speculation that there may have been some Russian involvement in the events that saw Capt Traoré seize power in a nation beset by growing jihadist violence.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch close to Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the founder of the Wagner Group – a shadowy mercenary organisation active in several African countries – congratulated the young junta leader, describing him as “a truly worthy and courageous son of his motherland”.

“The people of Burkina Faso were under the yoke of the colonialists, who robbed the people as well as played their vile games, trained, supported gangs of bandits and caused much grief to the local population.” -BBC

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