Burkina Faso asks French army to leave

By G. Dunkel
February 8, 2023

Malians protest French troops. “France degage,” loosely translated, means “France, get the hell out!”

The government of Burkina Faso on Jan. 23 officially asked the French army to remove its special forces detachment and its military trainers from the country by the end of February. France has about 400 soldiers in Burkina Faso. Neighboring Mali in West Africa got 2,400 French troops to leave its territory about 10 months ago.

Military governments, both having strong popular support, had seized power with coups against pro-French regimes in both Mali and Burkina Faso last year. In multiple demonstrations, protesters have carried Russian flags along with signs demanding “French leave!” and have made clear that they support their military.

Even after 60 years of nominal independence, France has been able to maintain neocolonial dominance in many of its West African colonies. While Mali and Burkina Faso are among the poorest countries of the world, Mali is the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, with 63.4 tons produced in 2022, and Burkina Faso is fifth with 45 tons. And alongside their gold deposits lie tremendous amounts of other minerals.

The way gold is extracted is environmentally very dangerous, using mercury and cyanide, but its mining provides millions of jobs.

Mali’s government has made it clear that it has employed the Russia-based Wagner Group to provide it with military training and to supplement its troops in fighting several reactionary religious-based groups, which have been attempting a military takeover using terroristic tactics. Over 2 million Burkinabè (Burkina Faso citizens) are internally displaced, along with hundreds of thousands of Malians.

Burkina Faso’s current military leader, Ibrahim Traoré, was asked about Burkina Faso’s also employing Wagner, which had a delegation in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. He denied it, replying, “We’ve since heard that they’re even in a hotel somewhere; we’re surprised to hear about that.” (Africa News, Feb. 4.)

Decline of French imperialism

Radio France International, France’s version of the BBC, is owned by the French government, which set it up in 1975. It is not as much of a lap dog of French imperialism as is the Voice of America for U. S. imperialism, but it doesn’t stray far.

In a piece published Oct. 9, 2022, RFI lays out how French imperialism lost their economic and political influence in West Africa.  The following quotes are from the officially sanctioned English version: “The decline began in the early 2000s, and over the last two decades, France has been stripped of its title as the continent’s leading supplier and investor.

“While French exports to Africa have significantly increased, their overall value has halved between 2000 and 2021. This is largely due to the surge in demand from African consumers, which has increased fourfold, and the emergence of new competitors.  China began eating into France’s market share in the early 2000s and overtook it in 2007. China now has 17% of the African market, three times more than France.” (tinyurl.com/365nxadp)

The article goes on to say: “Five years ago, Germany overtook France as Europe’s leading supplier to Africa. In terms of investment in the continent, the Netherlands is now in pole position, partly because many multinationals choose to register their headquarters there to benefit from lower corporate tax rates.  A closer look at France’s foreign trade figures reveals that its main African partners no longer come from the favored French-speaking West African nations.”

The following point is so honest that it is hard to believe a government-edited publication made it. “More generally, accusations that France has too much control reflect multiple grievances that are not always related to the economy.”

The expulsion of its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso confirms how much French imperialism has lost control of its former colonies.