Hundreds of people gathered in central Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou on Friday, marched to demand the departure of the French ambassador to the country. Chanting anti-France slogans and wielding placards calling on the French army to “get out”.

Some set fire to French flags or used them to collect rubbish.

The demonstration was called by the Pan-African Leaders Collective, a political group that includes organizations who support Captain Ibrahim Traore, in power since the end of September.

Supporters of a coup against Burkina Faso leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba attacked the French embassy in the capital Ouagadougou on Sunday. Security forces used tear gas at the embassy to disperse the protesters as unrest continues to grip the country.

Relations between Burkina Faso and its former colonizer have soured following two military coups last year spurred partly by authorities’ failure to protect civilians from jihadist activity in the arid north. Some of the tension revolves around perceptions that France’s military presence in Burkina Faso has not improved security.

Demonstrator Lassane Sawadogo deplored how security has steadily, deteriorated in Burkina Faso since unrest began in 2015. The protest was largely peaceful and ended without incident.Angry mobs have previously targeted the French embassy, cultural centre and military base.

Burkina Faso’s military government has also been at odds with France since it toppled the previous junta in a coup at the end of September.In the second military coup this year, junior soldiers, under the leadership of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, announced they had overthrown Burkina Faso’s military government on Friday.

Several French symbols in the country have since come under attack, after the soldiers accused Damiba of hiding at a French military base and of plotting his return to power. France’s cultural institution in Ouagadougou, the Institut Français, suffered “important damage,” according to France’s Foreign Ministry. A French institution in the country’s second-largest city Bobo Dioulasso was also attacked.

Authorities suspended the broadcast of France’s RFI radio in December over reports they said were false and gave voice to Islamist militants.Earlier this month, the government requested the replacement of France’s ambassador.

France has some 400 special forces based in Burkina Faso to help local forces battle the Islamist insurgency that has spread across the Sahel from Mali over the past decade.Thousands have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The violence has exacerbated regional food insecurity.

The incidents recall the sudden deterioration of relations between France and Mali in the wake of military coups in 2020 and 2021, which led to the ousting of France’s ambassador to Mali and France’s decision to withdraw troops from Mali.

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Piers Potter


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