“Russia’s African Experiment”: Putin’s Success in Burkina Faso Post-French Departure

In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, a poster offering free Russian language courses is attached to the iconic globe structure at a major road junction known as the “United Nations roundabout”. Despite the Soviet Union’s retreat from Africa after its dissolution, signs of Russian resurgence are evident, with pro-Russian graffiti adorning city walls and flags flying in the streets. Following a military coup in January 2022, which ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Russian flags appeared during anti-French protests, signaling a shift in sentiment.

Cultural events like football tournaments and film screenings, coupled with efforts by organizations like the African Initiative and The Russian House, aim to bolster Russia’s image in Burkina Faso. This diplomatic offensive intensified after a Russia-Africa summit in July 2023, during which President Putin pledged aid to Burkina Faso.

Burkinabes express dissatisfaction with French influence, particularly regarding cultural matters such as same-sex marriage, viewing Russian attitudes as more compatible with their own. Burkina Faso, like neighboring Mali and Niger, also resents French military presence, which has failed to address Sahel region threats since 2013.

Under military rule, Burkina Faso seeks military cooperation with Russia against armed groups, marking a shift from French to Russian influence. Although not officially present, Burkina Faso is seen as a new frontier for Russian influence akin to the Central African Republic.

Cultural initiatives, such as a sambo martial arts tournament dedicated to Putin, underscore Russia’s growing presence. This strategic realignment reflects broader Russian efforts to expand its influence in sub-Saharan Africa, reminiscent of its activities in the Central African Republic.

About Geraldine Boechat 2684 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia