France will withdraw its troops from Burkina Faso within a month after the West African country’s military rulers asked it to leave, the French foreign ministry said, in a move that will further reduce its presence in a region facing growing violence from armed groups.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the French ministry said it had received notice the previous day that a 2018 agreement on the status of French troops in the country had been terminated.
“In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the denunciation takes effect one month after receipt of the written notification. We will comply with the terms of this agreement by complying with this request.”
France retains some 200 to 400 special forces in its former colony.
On Monday, Ouagadougou said it had decided to end a military accord that allowed French troops to fight armed groups on its territory because the government wants the country to defend itself.
Burkina Faso’s national television reported on Saturday that the government had suspended a 2018 military accord with Paris on January 18, giving France one month to pull its troops out.
Protests against the French military presence have surged in Burkina Faso, partly linked to perceptions that France has not done enough to tackle the violence that has spread in recent years from neighbouring Mali, whose military rulers asked French forces to leave last year and deployed Russian private security contractors instead.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest and most volatile countries in Africa. Thousands of troops, police and civilians have been killed and about two million people have fled their homes since fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) launched a campaign of violence from neighbouring Mali in 2015.
More than a third of the country lies beyond the control of the government, and frustration within the army at the mounting toll triggered two coups last year.
French defence and diplomatic sources said the special forces could be moved to Niger, where a large contingent of French and European forces are now based. Paris also has a large military presence in Chad.