New French policy in Africa: fewer soldiers, more cooperation
France is still deploying some 3000 soldiers in Africa.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday an upcoming “visible reduction” in his military strength on the African continent, pleading for a real security partnership with local states in the face of the advance of jihadist groups.
The transformation will begin in the coming months with a visible reduction in our numbers and a rise in power in these bases of our African partners, declared the French head of state in a speech delivered on the eve of a African tour. In particular, he must visit four countries in Central Africa: Gabon, Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the first stage, in Libreville, he will participate in a summit on the preservation of the forests of the Congo River basin.
The reorganization of French military personnel is not intended to be a withdrawal or a disengagement, but it will indeed result in […] an Africanization, a pooling of its major bases, explained Mr. Macron during the meeting. #x27;a press conference.
You will have a reduction in the number of our soldiers, which will be accompanied by an increase in the load of their African partners in function needs that will be defined and clarified in the coming weeks, he added.
Paris announced a year ago that it wanted to discuss with the states of the Gulf of Guinea, threatened by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group, to develop a new relationship.
Mr. Macron's statements come after the end of the Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel and the forced withdrawal of French troops from Mali and Burkina Faso. These two countries are now controlled by military juntas and a feeling of hostility towards France is alive there.
The idea is that the French army will now act as a second curtain, the Élysée said. These bases will not be closed, but they will be transformed, they will become for some academies, for others bases, but partnerships, explained Mr. Macron. Some of them will be renamed, they will change their appearance, their fingerprint logic.
French President Emmanuel Macron giving a speech at the Élysée.
According to him, these bases are a pretext for many x27; opponents of France and sometimes a pretext not to solve political problems on the ground. France is not a life insurance to solve political problems of different countries, he added.
Without giving details on these negotiations with the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, the president invited them to express their security and military needs. We will stay, but with a reduced footprint of our own, he promised. We are going to train more, equip more and support better, because it will be on the basis of an expressed request.
France is still deploying some 3,000 soldiers in the region, in particular in Niger and Chad, after counting up to 5,500 men there.
Regarding Mali, Mr. Macron ruled on Monday that France had in spite of itself assumed an exorbitant responsibility in a decade of military engagement in this country. After nine years of presence in Mali, the French military completed their withdrawal from the country in August, pushed out by a hostile junta which approached Russia and called in the sulphurous Russian paramilitary company Wagner, which Bamako denies.
Mali has suffered since 2012 from the spread of jihadism and a deep multidimensional, political, economic and humanitarian crisis.
In 2013, the French intervention to prevent armed jihadist groups from seizing Bamako and driving them out of the northern towns they controlled was welcomed. And relations between Paris and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, elected in the wake of the success of the French operation in 2013, were initially good. They gradually deteriorated, then turned into open hostility after the two coups in 2020 and 2021 and the seizure of power by Malian soldiers.
In this region, and across the continent, the influence of France and Westerners is challenged by China and Russia. Thus, three of the four countries that the French president will visit − Gabon, Congo and Angola − abstained last Thursday during the vote on a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations demanding the Russian withdrawal from & #x27;Ukraine.
Africa is not a backwater, we must move from a logic of aid to that of investment, said Emmanuel Macron.
Monday's speech echoed that of Ouagadougou, in 2017, in which Mr. Macron had indicated his desire to turn the page with the post-colonial African policy of Paris, Françafrique, marked by political collusion and sulphurous ties, and reached out to an increasingly suspicious African youth vis-à-vis France.
The president, presenting himself as the leader of a new generation, had then denounced in front of 800 students the indisputable crimes of colonization and called for a new relationship with Africa, a pact which he intends to extend to Europe. In July, Emmanuel Macron had already toured Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau. He intends to continue his visits to the continent almost every six months or more.