In Burkina Faso, a convoy of the French army blocked by demonstrators

A French military convoy of Operation Barkhane has been blocked since mid-November in Burkina Faso by demonstrators, exasperated by the increasing Islamist attacks. Paradoxically, this anger is directed against the French presence, while Paris is deploying considerable efforts to fight against the jihadists. Despite everything, as in other countries of the Sahel, a large part of the Burkinabè population blames the French soldiers.

The 90 vehicles, which left Côte d’Ivoire for Mali via Burkina Faso and Niger, were stopped a few tens of kilometers northeast of Ougadougou, near the town of Kaya. It is the result of a decision by the French military authorities, intended to avoid any confrontation with demonstrators who block the passage a little further.

The convoy notably transports spare parts to supply the large military base of Gao in Mali. For the military, this represents a journey of more than 1,800 kilometers on improbable roads, where breakdowns and punctures often multiply. The main risk is to encounter explosive devices hidden at the edge of the road. This forces the army to take precautions, with the help of the Burkina gendarmerie. To these difficulties is now added the hostility of a large part of the local population.

A rumor – fed by social networks – claims that the convoy is carrying weapons intended for the jihadists. If this is absurd, the paranoia works, to the point that the demonstrators demand to inspect the contents of the trucks carrying the material bound for Gao. These insinuations serve those who would have an interest in destabilizing France’s action in the Sahel, such as Russia, and are based on a fallacy: the French army, with all its military means, would not have eradicated the terrorist threat because at fundamentally she wouldn’t want it.

This form of conspiracy can be explained by the exasperation of the Burkinabè population, which sees the security and humanitarian situation deteriorating day by day. As summarized by a French diplomat, in Burkina hostility towards France reflects above all resentment against the regime in place in Ouagadougou. This anger can be explained by the murderous attacks suffered by the population, civilians and soldiers alike.

Thus, ten days ago, 53 Burkinabè gendarmes were killed in the assault led by Islamists in Inata, in the north of the country, on the border with Niger. Since then, calls for the resignation of President Kaboré have multiplied, alongside harsh criticism against France. The demonstrators gathered in recent days in Kaya were waving “French Army clears” and “Libérez le Sahel” signs. The Burkinabè government would especially not want to see these injunctions taken at face value, because it knows well that only the French presence makes it possible to slow down the Islamist offensive in the region.

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