Ophelie Oudedrago, an 18-year-old university student from Burkina Faso, hunches over her laptop in the capital Ouagadougou, reviewing her notes from the first few weeks of medical school.
In the corner of her bedroom, against a wall, sits the suitcase she was meant to take to France, where she was admitted to the university of Montpellier.
But, like many students from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, Ouedraogo has seen her plans disrupted by a diplomatic crisis between Paris and the juntas that rule the three Sahelian countries, preventing her from obtaining a student visa and forcing her to follow along online.
France has suspended the issuance of visas from its consulates in Ouagadougou, as well as in Mali’s capital Bamako and Niger’s capital Niamey, citing security reasons.
“We can’t control the situation, so we’re stuck here and we try as best we can to be positive, even if it’s complicated”, Ouedraogo said.
The visa complications are just one impact that the deterioration of relations between the Sahel states and their former colonial power has had on people’s lives.
All three countries have undergone coups over the past three years. All are facing jihadist insurgencies and have blamed France, historically an ally, for many of their struggles.
France’s troops and ambassadors are being pushed out of the Sahel countries.
Following hostile demonstrations in the capitals, France in August updated its travel advisories to include the three cities in its “red zone”, which already covered most of the region.
The decision to stop issuing visas by consulates on site is one aspect of what Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called the “reduced operation of our embassies” in those countries.
Source: The Guardian