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Traoré gives assurances over relations with France despite troop exit

Ibrahim Traoré, Burkina Faso Military Leader   -  
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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso's military leader, Ibrahim Traoré, has said there has been no break in diplomatic relations with France.

It comes after he asked the former coloniser to withdraw its forces. He also denied Russian Wagner mercenaries, a private army of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were active in the country.

He said: "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?' 

"We've since heard that they're even in a hotel somewhere, we're surprised to hear about that."

"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."

Former colonial power France had special forces based in Ouagadougou, but its presence had come under intense scrutiny as anti-French sentiment in the region grows, with Paris withdrawing its ambassador to Burkina Faso over the junta's demands.

Last month Paris confirmed the special forces troops, deployed to help fight a years-long jihadist insurgency, would leave within a month.

However, Ibrahim Traoré insisted diplomatic relations were unharmed.  

"The French embassy is here," He said. "French nationals are here, just as ours is 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's what we are expressing through our denunciation of this agreement. So there is no breaking off of diplomatic relations, or hatred of any particular country."

Protests demanding the departure of French troops have continued in the country despite assurances they would leave anyway.

Thousands of civilians, troops and police have been killed in Burkina Faso, more than two million people have fled their homes and around 40 percent of the country lies outside the government's control.

Anger within the military at the mounting toll sparked two coups in 2022, the most recent of which was on September 30, when 34-year-old Traoré, seized power.

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