Burkina Faso's interim president names Russia as 'strategic ally'

Burkina Faso's interim president names Russia as 'strategic ally'
/ BF1 Television, via YouTube
By bne IntelliNews May 5, 2023

Burkina Faso's interim President, Ibrahim Traore, has hailed Russia as a "strategic ally", marking a significant shift in the West African country's foreign policy.

As reported by Reuters, Traore revealed to a national TV channel that Russia was a major supplier of military equipment to Burkina Faso, but did not go into further detail.

His comments follow a rise in anti-French sentiment in the wide Sahel region. Burkina Faso booted out French troops earlier this year.

"The departure of the French army does not mean that France is not an ally," Traore said. "But we have strategic allies too. We have new forms of cooperation. Russia, for example, is a strategic ally."

Despite admitting that Russia had provided weapons, Traore rejected claims of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group backing the Burkinabe military in their battle against Islamist militants.

He stated that the country fought unaccompanied and that reports of Wagner's involvement were fabricated to harm the country's reputation and deter international support.

Western countries are increasingly worried about Russia's growing influence in the Sahel region of Africa. Last year, France removed its troops from Mali because the junta began collaborating with the Russian private military company Wagner Group to combat insurgents affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Over the past 19 years, the Sahel conflict has caused thousands of deaths and displaced 2.5mn people. Burkina Faso has been one of the hardest-hit countries, and has faced serious instability, resulting in two military coups in the past year. Despite their efforts to regain control, the military has been unable to halt the attacks.