France has received a request from junta-ruled Burkina Faso to withdraw its troops from the Sahel country and will do so within a month, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.
“On Tuesday … we formally received notice from the Burkinabe government of the termination of the 2018 agreement on the status of French armed forces present in the country,” a ministry spokeswoman said.
“According to the terms of the accord, the termination takes effect a month after reception of written notification. We will respect the terms of the agreement by honoring this request.”
About 400 French special forces are currently based in Burkina Faso in a deployment dubbed “Sabre,” part of a broader military presence to fight jihadists across the Sahel region.
But the country has followed a similar course to neighboring Mali, falling out with Paris after a military coup brought a junta to power and the French presence became increasingly unpopular among the public.
The Burkinabe government has assured Paris it will not follow Mali by turning to Russia’s Wagner to back up its army—although a liaison team from the mercenary group has already visited.
A source familiar with French military plans told AFP that while the troops would be gone by the end of February, their equipment would be picked up by late April.
Paris asked for clarification from Ouagadougou’s transitional president Ibrahim Traore on Monday after the government had said it was asking French forces to leave.
“This does not mean the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo told broadcaster RTV following the announcement.
In addition, the government has requested that Paris replace its ambassador after incumbent Luc Hallade commented publicly on the worsening security situation in the country.
The landlocked state, a former French colony, is one of the poorest and most volatile in Africa.
Thousands of troops, police and civilians have been killed and about 2 million people have fled their homes since jihadists launched an insurgency from neighboring 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.