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French military convoy in Burkina remains blocked

November 26, 2021
French military convoy in Burkina remains blocked

Ouagadougou: A French military convoy heading for Mali remained blocked in Burkina Faso on Thursday after being hampered by protests.

The convoy, comprising several dozen vehicles, is heading for a French base in Gao in the violence-torn centre of Mali. It first has to transit through Burkina Faso, which lies to the south, and then through Niger, to the east.

After entering Burkina’s territory from Ivory Coast last week, the convoy was slowed by protesters at Bobo Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, and then at Ouagadougou, the capital.

On Friday, the biggest demonstration occurred at Kaya, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Ouagadougou. Thousands of protesters, some carrying placards reading "French army, leave" and "free the Sahel" and singing the Burkinabe national anthem, forced the convoy to hole up on a site near the town.

The following day, four people suffered gunshot wounds in Kaya, in circumstances that remain unclear -- French and Burkinabe soldiers fired warning shots to disperse demonstrators.

The convoy on Thursday was stationed in a military area about 30 kilometres (18 miles) northeast of Ouagadougou, pending the outcome of talks to let the trucks leave for Niger, the next country in the trek.

The protests are being organised by a group called the Coalition of the African Patriots of Burkina Faso, or COPA BF. "In spite of the (security) accords signed with France, we continue to have more fatalities and our country is still under-equipped," said its spokesman, Roland Baya.

France has deployed more than 5,000 troops in the Sahel, backed by planes and drones, to shore up Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso against jihadists who launched a bloody insurgency more than nine years ago.