Protesters in Burkina Faso have stopped a French military convoy en route to Niger over rising indignation about France’s failure in alleged counter-terrorism operations in the African country and reports of the former colonizer’s connivance with terrorist outfits.
The incident took place on Friday after hundreds of people demonstrated against the passage of a large French army convoy in Kaya, the capital city of the north-central region of Burkina Faso, with protesters holding handwritten signs that read, "Down with France."
Local reports said the French vehicles eventually pulled off the road into an area protected by metal fencing.
According to witnesses, the convoy encountered similar protests in other towns but had been able to continue until Kaya.
A source at the French embassy in the capital Ouagadougou and a French army source confirmed the situation in Kaya but did not give further details.
The development came as anger is rising in the former French colony over France's involvement in a regional conflict with terrorist groups and the inability of Burkinabe and international forces to prevent escalating violence in the country.
"This concerns all of Africa, not only Burkina Faso. We came out today to say we are fed up with the French army, they should stop playing with Africa. We cannot suffer under the sun while their children are comfortable over there, they have everything they want however they still come here and exploit our resources, and we are not comfortable. Us Africans, we can do this job (security). We thank the French army, they should take back what they put down here and go home,” said Samuel Ebri, a Kaya resident attending the mass protest.
Some of the protesters also echoed local reports and voiced conspiracy theories common in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, alleging that the French work with the terrorists.
"We know they are our enemies, we asked them to open their vehicles so that we have an idea of the contents, they refused. We know what is inside: suspect items. They should apologize, change countries and go far from us," said Kaya resident Bassirou Ouedraogo.
State security forces suffered their heaviest loss in years on Sunday when unidentified gunmen claimed the lives of 49 military police officers and four civilians.
The country has been battling armed combatants with links to the al-Qaeda and Daesh Takfiri terrorist groups over the past few years. Hundreds have been killed in the past year in the Sahel nation, and over half a million people have been displaced.
According to the United Nations’ data, Takfiri and inter-communal violence was to blame for 4,000 deaths last year in the Sahel region countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
Terrorist groups, linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh, have strengthened their foothold across the arid Sahel region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Outfits affiliated with the terrorist groups have used central and northern Mali as a launch pad for growing numbers of attacks across the Sahel region despite the presence of French troops, who help the Malian army to push back militants.
France recently increased the number of troops in the Sahel to more than 5,000 despite opposition to the former colonizer’s presence in the volatile region. A poll published lately found for the first time that a slim majority of French people viewed the military intervention in the Sahel unfavorably.
The United Nations declared in July last year that the spread of terrorist attacks in West Africa was so fast that the region had to consider bolstering its response beyond current military efforts.