- Leaders of the five Sahel countries are set to have a summit in Paris in January, so as to discuss on how to curb the violence that has been on the rise.
- The French President said the summit will clarify the “political and strategic framework” of the operation after the tensions emerged.
- West African leaders began their meeting in Nigeria to discuss ways to combat the spread of jihadist violence.
A rise in the attacks by terrorists in West Africa has raised concerns over French military involvement in the region. The current French operation has been on-going since 2014, coordinating security related issues with Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. Currently, over 4,500 French troops are in the region. Despite the challenge, the French President, Emmanuel Macron vows to give a new force to the fight armed groups in the Sahel states in West Africa.
Leaders of the five Sahel countries are set to have a summit in Paris in January, so as to discuss on how to curb the violence that has been on the rise. This summit was earlier scheduled for December 16, in Pau, France, but was called off early this month after militants attacked an army base in Mali, killing 71 soldiers.
The French President said the summit will clarify the “political and strategic framework” of the operation after the tensions emerged. “I cannot ask our soldiers to take risks to fight against terrorism and the security of these countries and on the other hand to have public opinions of these same countries believing in untruths,” he said. “France is not there with imperial intentions . . . I will not allow myself to be attacked, I will not allow our soldiers to be attacked with this type of argument,” Macron added.
Macron said this while on a visit to Ivory Coast to celebrate an early Christmas with French troops. He announced that 33 militants had been killed in an operation that took place on Saturday in Mali’s Mopti region. “Thanks to an engagement by our soldiers and the Burkhane forces, we were able to neutralize thirty-three terrorists, take one prisoner and free two Malian gendarmes who had been held hostage,” he said. France’s army commander said that the operation took place overnight near the Mauritanian border.
This came as the West African leaders began their meeting in Nigeria to discuss ways to combat the spread of jihadist violence, a situation that the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, described as the greatest threat in the region. The UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told the leaders in the summit that military action alone could not end the violence as he called for more to be done.
France, the former colonial power in Mali and Ivory Coast, is the only western country with a significant military presence in Mali and the wider Sahel region, an arid region of West Africa below the Sahara desert. French officials have however expressed frustration that some nations in the region have not done more to curb criticism of its interventions. “If we allow chaos to take root, the Sahel states will collapse leaving a void for the Islamic State,” said the Head of French armed forces.