Burkina Faso kicks out three French diplomats over ‘subversive activities’

France condemns the move and says there ‘were no legitimate grounds’ to expel its diplomats.

People queue at the office of French airline Air France in Ouagadougou Wednesday Jan. 26, 2022
Burkina Faso's relations with France have deteriorated since the military took over the African country in a September 2022 coup [File: Sophie Garcia/AP]

Burkina Faso has accused three French diplomats of “subversive activities” and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours, according to a foreign ministry letter viewed by Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agencies.

Burkina Faso’s government did not provide details of the allegations against the expelled diplomats, who it named as Gwenaelle Habouzit, Herve Fournier and Guillaume Reisacher.

Reuters cited a source with direct knowledge of the situation as saying their expulsion was due to meetings they held with civil society leaders.

France condemned the move on Thursday.

“There were no legitimate grounds for the Burkinabe authorities’ decision. We can only deplore it,” said Christophe Lemoine, a spokesperson for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He said the allegations against the three were “unfounded”.

Fraying ties with France

Since coming to power in a September 2022 coup, Burkina Faso’s military government has pulled away from France, its former colonial power, kicking out French troops, suspending some French media, and repeatedly accusing French officials of espionage.

On December 1 last year, Burkinabe authorities arrested four French officials with diplomatic passports in the capital, Ouagadougou, and charged them with spying, according to Le Monde newspaper. The officials, who France claims were working as IT support staff, are under house arrest, according to Burkina Faso security sources.

A year earlier, in December 2022, Ouagadougou also expelled two French nationals working for a Burkina Faso company, accusing them of espionage.

As relations with France deteriorate, Burkina Faso has increasingly turned to Russia, Mali and Niger for security assistance as it struggles to contain fighters linked to the armed groups, al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies