Relations between France and the former colony of Burkina Faso continue to deteriorate amid ongoing violence in the Sahel.

The French Foreign Ministry says it received a letter from the Burkinabe authorities in December requesting the departure of the French ambassador from Burkina Faso.

The spokeswoman for the French ministry confirmed by email to Reuters on Tuesday that it had received such a letter, but declined to provide further details or say how it had responded.

The Burkinabe government has declined to comment officially on reports it sent to Paris last month with this request.

“We have indeed received a letter from the Burkinabé transitional authorities. This is not standard practice and we have no public response to comment on this,” the French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said via email.

The whereabouts and status of French ambassador Luc Hallade could not be immediately confirmed. The embassy in Ouagadougou declined to comment.

The apparent expulsion signals a further deterioration in relations between Burkina Faso and former colonizer France, which maintains strong ties with other former colonies in West Africa and has stationed special forces there.

Protests from opponents of Paris’ military presence surged last year, in part related to France’s perceived inefficiency in cracking down on armed groups that have spread their sphere of influence from neighboring Mali in recent years.

The continued insecurity led to political instability and military coups in Mali – in August 2020 and May 2021 – and in Burkina Faso – in January and September 2022.

Angry protesters directed at the French embassycultural center and military base in Burkina Faso on the day of the second coup and on November 18. Demonstrators demanded that France leave and called on the temporary military authorities to ask Russia for help in fighting the rebels, as it is doing in Mali.

After the second coup in Ouagadougou, the government of Burkinabe accused France of support overthrown military leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba in planning a counter-offensive.

In late December, Burkinabé authorities ordered senior UN official Barbara Manzi to leave the countryaccusing her of painting a negative picture of the security situation.

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