Russia has officially reopened its embassy in Burkina Faso, marking the end of a closure that spanned over three decades according to officials. This diplomatic development comes as Burkina Faso, once a staunch ally of France, has shifted its geopolitical alignment towards Russia following a military coup in 2022.
In response to the coup, the junta in Burkina Faso expelled French diplomats and closed France’s military base within its borders.
Concurrently, the nation has actively sought to strengthen both military and diplomatic ties with Russia, a move that contrasts sharply with France’s condemnation of the coup in Burkina Faso, as well as similar events in neighboring Mali and Niger.
The decision to reopen the embassy was initially announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg in July. The closure of the embassy in 1992 coincided with Moscow’s reduced engagement in Africa following the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The reopening ceremony took place in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, as reported by Russia’s state-owned news agency Tass. The head of the mission is yet to be named, and in the interim, Russia’s ambassador to Ivory Coast, Alexei Saltykov, has indicated that he will lead the embassy until an official appointment is made.
Describing Burkina Faso as an “old partner with whom we have solid and friendly ties,” Ambassador Saltykov highlighted the historical relationship between the two nations. Under President Putin’s leadership, Russia has made significant efforts to reassert its influence in Africa.
Recent diplomatic exchanges include talks between Burkina Faso’s Defence Minister, Col Kassoum Coulibaly and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow. Col Coulibaly emphasized the practical aspects of these discussions as Burkina Faso seeks to bolster its military capabilities in the face of challenges such as the ongoing Islamist insurgency, shared with Mali and Niger.
While Mali has enlisted Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to combat militants and expelled French troops, Burkina Faso’s junta has denied allegations of employing Wagner, as asserted by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo in the previous year.
Beyond military collaboration, Burkina Faso and Russia signed a deal in July for the construction of a nuclear power plant, aiming to enhance the country’s energy infrastructure. With less than a quarter of the population having access to electricity, this initiative addresses a crucial aspect of Burkina Faso’s development.
Additionally, Russia has extended assistance to Burkina Faso in addressing health crises, dispatching a team of doctors to help combat outbreaks of deadly diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya.
This multifaceted cooperation underscores the evolving nature of the relationship between Burkina Faso and Russia, as geopolitical dynamics continue to shift in the region.