After the expulsion from Mali of French troops from Mali, by President Assimi Goïta, French forces have relocated to the Republic of Niger.
Critics are getting increasingly concerned about the continued presence of the troops in Africa, and their refusal to leave. After French forces were ordered to leave Mali, reports indicate that the soldiers did not return to France. Rather, they were relocated to Nigwe.
A photo was released recently showing a French Air Force Airbus A-400 M Atlas loaded with vehicles and military personnel for transportation from their base in Gao, Mali, to Niger Republic.
While many observers are concerned at the prompt approval and provision of a new base for the French troops in Niger Republic, others believe it is a good move that will aid the country’s fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.
The French forces say that after setting up their new base in Niger, they will switch their mode of operation from what they did in Mali. The commander of the troop was quoted as saying that they would be acting more “in support” of local forces rather than substituting for them.
You will recall that the French forces have been in Mali for about ten years, but recently pulled out of the country after a misunderstanding with the military junta. He, however, stated that the troop termed ‘Operation Barkhane’ would not be returning to France. But rather would continue operations elsewhere in the Sahel. He, however, added that the troops had been ordered to operate in a lesser and reconfigured capacity.
Speaking in an interview with AFP and Radio France Internationale (RFI), the commander of Operation Barkhane, General Laurent Michon, said the force still had up to 2,000 soldiers in Mali awaiting transportation to Niger.
He added that there were no problems whatsoever and that the pullout was on track for completion “by the end of summer, as the president has requested.”
He further added that “Around 2,500 French troops” will remain in the Sahel when the operation is over, “but this depends above all on the wishes of the African states.
“France and the Europeans are moving towards more cooperative operations,” he said.
These operations will be “determined more strictly by requests from the African countries, and will take the form of ‘in support of’ and not ‘in replacement for’” the local military, he said.
“Sometimes we acted in the place” of the local armed forces in mounting operations against the jihadists, he said.
You will recall that France sent its troops into Mali in 2013 when they intervened to stem a jihadist-backed revolt in the north of the country.
In the following year, it launched Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region, which the country said would serve Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger Republic. France approved and committed over 5,000 soldiers to the operation and provided key support in air power, troop transport, and reconnaissance.
According to official reports, France has lost fifty-eight soldiers to date since they began operations in the Sahel region about a decade ago.
Do you agree with critics who believe that the presence of the French soldiers in Africa is a threat to the continent? Especially as there continue to be increasing reports about human rights violations perpetrated by members of the troops.
What are your thoughts?