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Russia’s Footprint Grows in Africa as France Leaves Burkina Faso

The former colonial power’s withdrawal leaves a vacuum that the mercenary Wagner Group is eager to fill 

French soldiers in northern Burkina Faso in 2018.

French soldiers in northern Burkina Faso in 2018.

Photographer: Michele Cattani/AFP/Getty Images

France will withdraw its military from Burkina Faso within a month following a request from the West African country’s governing junta. The removal is the latest sign of the former colonial power’s collapsing influence in the region — a development that Russia has eagerly exploited.

The end of France’s roughly 400-person mission in Burkina Faso comes ten months after its troops were kicked out of neighboring Mali, where French forces spent nearly a decade leading a losing fight against a growing jihadist insurgency, which killed thousands and displaced millions as it spread across the Sahel. In both countries, the French withdrawal occurred as government leaders strengthened their ties to the Kremlin, which has used the mercenary Wagner Group to gain a foothold in the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan.