Paris was waiting for clarifications after its former colony Burkina Faso ordered Sunday hundreds of French troops to leave the West African country within a month.
French President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference in Paris that the messages from Burkina Faso were “confusing” with the country’s military junta leader Ibrahim Traore away from the capital, Ouagadougou.
He urged “a lot of prudence,” saying there was “great confusion” over the remarks reported in the media.
“We are waiting for clarifications on the part of Mr. Traore,” he told reporters.
Burkina Faso’s national broadcaster, RTB, reported Saturday that the junta government had decided Wednesday to end the French military presence in the country. RTB cited the official Agence d’Information du Burkina as the source of the announcement.
“The Burkinabe government last Wednesday denounced the accord which has governed, since 2018, the presence of French armed forces on its territory,” it said.
A source close to the government, however, clarified it was “not the severance of relations with France. The notification only concerns military cooperation agreements”
“I think we must be very careful,” Macron said about the report, mentioning Russia’s possible interference and the need to make sure that there was no “manipulation” of information.
Anti-French sentiment has grown in Burkina Faso since Traore seized power in September. Traore has been more overtly open to working with other countries, notably Russia.
Protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou this month to call for the ouster of the French ambassador and the closure of a French military base north of the capital. About 400 French special forces soldiers are currently based there, France 24 reported.
As Burkina Faso seems to be seeking closer ties with Russia, France fears a repeat of its disastrous falling out with Mali, from which it pulled out troops last year.
The Burkinabe military government has sought to reassure Paris that it does not intend to enlist the help of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner to bolster its forces.
But French sources say a delegation from the mercenary group has visited the mineral-rich country.
French special forces could leave immediately if President Ibrahim Traore struck a deal with Wagner.
France’s preferred option appears to be to redeploy its forces in the south of neighboring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already stationed.