PARIS (Reuters) -France has asked the president of Burkina Faso to intervene after a convoy of French troops was stopped en route to Niger on Friday by protesters opposed to the former colonial ruler’s role in a regional conflict with Islamist militants.
Anger is rising in the West Africa country over the inability of local and international forces alike to stop attacks by the jihadists. State security forces suffered their heaviest loss in years last week when gunmen killed 49 military police officers and four civilians.
Hundreds of people massed on the road in the city of Kaya on Friday to block the path of French armoured vehicles, a Reuters reporter there said. One protester held a sign saying: “Kaya says to the French army to go home.”
Speaking to LCI television on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said “manipulators” were stoking anti-French sentiment, but he hoped the Burkinabe authorities would act to find a solution.
“We’ve made it clear to President (Roch) Kabore that we’d like him to resolve the situation in Kaya and I think it will be resolved,” Le Drian said. “It’s a little tense because of internal reasons, but also external because there are influencers who are leading an information war.”
The French convoy was forced to head about 70 km (44 miles) south to a camp just north of the capital Ouagadougou on Sunday, two security sources told Reuters. It was not clear if it planned to head to Niger via a different route.
Police used tear gas to disperse protesters in Kaya on Sunday, one of the sources said.
(Reporting by John Irish and Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault in Ouagadougou; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Clarke)