Burkina expels French defence attache for 'subversive activities'

Burkina Faso (STAFF)
Burkina Faso (STAFF)

Burkina Faso's foreign ministry has notified France of the expulsion of the embassy's military attache for "subversive activities", in the latest sign of failing relations between the former allies.

In a letter seen by AFP on Friday, the ministry warned that attache Emmanuel Pasquier and his team had two weeks to leave the Sahel nation, which underwent two military coups last year.

The letter added that the French military mission in Ouagadougou would be closed.

France, which withdrew troops from its former colony in the face of mounting hostility after Captain Ibrahim Traore seized power in September 2022, rejected the accusation.

"The accusation of subversive activities is obviously fanciful," a foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP in Paris.

France recalled its ambassador from Ouagadougou after the September coup and has not replaced the envoy.

The Burkinabe authorities in recent months have suspended the French TV outlets LCI and France24 as well as Radio France Internationale (RFI) and expelled the correspondents of the French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde.

Since the French pullout in January, Burkina has developed closer contacts with Russia, an ally of the junta in neighbouring Mali.

Junta chief Traore last week gave an interview saying Burkina was not "the enemy of the French people" but of the policies of its government.

"We have to accept seeing each other as equals... and accept an overhaul of our entire cooperation," he said on state television.

Traore also suggested France had been ineffective in helping the Burkinabe army fight the long-running jihadist insurgency.

The impoverished landlocked country saw the Islamists sweep in from Mali in 2015. More than 17,000 civilians, troops and police have since died, according to an NGO monitor.

Over two million people have been forced to flee their homes, creating one of Africa's worst crises of internal displacement.

Anger within the armed forces led to a coup on January 24 2022, toppling elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

On September 30, Kabore's nemesis, Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, was himself overthrown by the 34-year-old Traore, who has promised a return to democracy with presidential elections by July 2024.

Traore in July met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg and followed up with talks in August with a Russian delegation on development and military cooperation.

Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba on Monday said Burkina needed to "strengthen bilateral cooperation" with Iran and President Ebrahim Raissi.