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Burkina Faso ends military pact with France, says to defend itself

Demonstrators hold placards during a protest to support the Burkina Faso President Captain Ibrahim Traore and to demand the departure of France's ambassador and military forces, in Ouagadougou, on Jan 20, 2023. (OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP)

OUAGADOUGOU – Burkina Faso has decided to end a military accord that allowed French troops to fight insurgents on its territory because the government wants the country to defend itself, the government said on Monday.

The West African country is facing an Islamist insurgency by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State which have taken over large swathes of land and displaced millions of people in the wider Sahel region, just south of the Sahara.

The national television station reported on Saturday that the government had suspended a 2018 military accord with Paris on Jan 18, giving France one month to pull its troops out.

Burkina Faso's government spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said the decision was not linked to any particular event, but that it was the "normal order of things" for France to hand over responsibility to Burkina Faso for its own defense. The one-month deadline is part of the military agreement, he added

French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he was awaiting clarifications from Burkina Faso's transitional president Ibrahim Traore about the decision.

"At the current stage, we don't see how to be more clear than this," said government spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo, speaking on national television.

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He said the decision was not linked to any particular event, but that it was the "normal order of things" for France to hand over responsibility to Burkina Faso for its own defense. The one-month deadline is part of the military agreement, he added.

"This is not the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France," said Ouedraogo, adding that his country still wanted support in the form of military equipment.

French authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

French troops pulled out of neighboring Mali last year, ending a decade-long fight against insurgents, after relations deteriorated between the two countries.

READ MORE: Burkina Faso govt demands departure of French troops

Both Burkina Faso and Mali are ruled by military juntas that seized power by force in the last two years, promising to improve security and burning bridges with their traditional allies.