After eight years of supporting local forces in the Sahel region of West Africa to prevent armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) from actualizing their threats, France is now set to gradually reduce its military presence.
France intends to halve the number of the 5,100-member Barkhane force in the Sahel over time.
According to President Emmanuel, France isn’t taking its hands off the fight but will continue to show its support.
“We will remain committed. But to remain committed is also to adapt,” he said on Friday — after a virtual summit with leaders of the G5 Sahel region — Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
“France doesn’t have the vocation or the will to stay eternally in the Sahel,” Macron said. “We are there because we were asked to be.”
Over the next six months, Barkhane bases in Timbuktu, Tessalit and Kidal in northern Mali will be shut down. The restive border area where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet will become one of the major focus. In Mali, the French troops have been present since 2013.
Thousands of lives have been lost in the fight and over two million persons, internally displaced. According to Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project, about 7000 lives were lost last year.
President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, spoke honestly about the failures of the local forces but recognized their courage in risking their lives to protect all.
He appreciated the French military support and training, and emphasized that things should be done in line with African terms.
“The main thing is that France maintains the principle of its support, its cooperation and support for the armed forces of our different countries. We need France to give us what we don’t have. We don’t need France to give us what we already have.”
By Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.