French President Emmanuel Macron called on several African nations to help France wipe out Islamic terrorism in the volatile Sahel region, “because they are doing it today, in the name of dividing people, in the name of a religion … but which they distort to give it the face of ignorance and hatred.”
Macron was speaking to leaders of the G5 Sahel bloc—Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad—at a security summit in Mali’s capital Bamako on Sunday, July 2.
The bloc is expected to launch a multinational offensive of 5,000 local troops against terrorism in the desert region, which Macron said he hoped would happen in a “matter of weeks.”
In 2012, Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, seized control of Mali’s northern desert region. While they were driven out of major urban centers in 2013 by a French-led military offensive, they continue to attack UN peacekeepers, Mali soldiers, and civilians.
In July 2014, France’s Operation Barkhane was launched in the Sahel region to drive out Islamic terrorists bordering the five countries, and this force is expected to be part of the new multi-national force.
To exacerbate matters, prolonged droughts in the Sahel region have caused widespread food shortages and more instability in the area, and it remains a haven for drug traffickers and kidnappers.
France’s foreign minister was quoted by French media as saying they would prioritize securing the borders of the countries in the Sahel region.
This is the French president’s second visit to Mali since he took office in May. He made his first trip to visit some 3,500 French troops based there just a week after he assumed presidency. It was the first trip he took outside Europe as France’s leader, a symbolic show of his priorities.
By Holly Kellum for NTD