According to French weekly Jeune Afrique, French troops may have played a key role in evacuating Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso's ousted president, from his native country to a safe haven in neighboring Ivory Coast after he resigned on Friday.
Speaking from Canada on Monday, French President François Hollande told AFP that France had helped ensure that "Compaoré's evacuation was able to take place without drama." At the same time, Hollande denied any French "active participation."
In an article published today, however, Jeune Afrique described the operation in detail, maintaining that a French military helicopter and an aircraft carried the former president from Burkina Faso to the Ivory Coast. The French government has not yet responded to this information.
According to the news magazine, Compaoré was allegedly transported by helicopter from the town of Manga in the Nobere region to the town of Fada N'gourma, in eastern Burkina Faso. From there, he was apparently picked up by an aircraft and shepherded to Yamoussoukro, the capital of Ivory Coast.
It was initially reported that Compaoré attempted to reach the southern town of Pô, in Burkina Faso, in a 28-vehicle strong civilian convoy accompanied by a state military escort, but was blocked 150 feet from his destination. Though according to Jeune Afrique, French special forces stationed in the country's capital, Ouagadougou, sent a helicopter to evacuate Compaoré and his family, who today remain in Ivory Coast.
Burkina Faso has been one of the key allies involved in Operation Barkhane, France's military campaign against terrorists in the Sahel region across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
Video by Burkina 24 news site apparently showing Blaise Compaoré's convoy.
Jeune Afrique claims not only that France played an active role in the former president's evacuation, but also that Compaoré was in touch with French authorities throughout last week's political and civilian turmoil.
Speaking in Quebec, Hollande indicated that: "From the start of the crisis, France played its part in warning [Compaoré]." The French president confirmed that he had written to Compaoré, urging him "not to revise the constitution," an event which led to the maneuver which led to violent protests in Ouagadougou. Hollande added that he had made a statement last week, "asking Compaoré to make the right choice, and leave."
The French government has been notably close-mouthed on last week's events in Burkina Faso, which gained full independence from Paris as the Republic of Upper Volta in 1960. This reticence matches with the French president's avowed restraint from meddling in the affairs of its former colonies in Africa, which Hollande underscored in a speech given in 2012 in Dakar, Senegal, where he said that: "The era of Françafrique is over."
AFP defines Françafrique as "a network of influences and affairs between Paris and its former colonies," and many have denounced such relations as a hindrance to the democratic development of former French African colonies. A January 2010 article in French newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique characterized Burkina Faso as a "pillar of Franceafrique."
Compaoré is currently under the protection of his ally Alassane Ouattara, the president of the Ivory Coast, a country that also gained independence from France in 1960.
Follow Virgile Dall'Armellina on Twitter : @armellina