And instead of leaving, they are about to expand their mission to fighting terrorism from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean.
That’s because the region’s terrorist problem hasn’t gone away: French troops merely dispersed Mali’s al-Qaeda-linked militants, and their potential ties with Nigerian militant group Boko Haram are of increasing concern to the French government.
The redeployment of 3 000 French troops in five of its former colonies across northwest Africa is expected to become official in the coming days.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived on Wednesday in Mali, and President Francois Hollande is starting a three-day visit to Ivory Coast, Niger and Chad on Thursday.
Africans have mixed feelings about French soldiers setting up camp long term. Some in Mali see it as a neocolonial power grab, while others feel that the French are only extending the mission because they failed to finish the job they started in January 2013.
“A sovereign country should not accept the presence of foreign troops to assure its security. France took advantage of the weakness of our defense system to set itself up again in our country, after it was chased out in 1960 by the Malian people,” said Bassirou Guindo, a Bamako vendor.
The new operation — codenamed “Barkhane” after a crescent-shaped dune in Sahara Desert — will involve Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
While Hollande said this week that the original Mali operation, called Serval, “has been perfectly accomplished,” sporadic violence continues.
A French soldier was killed Monday in a suicide attack while taking part in a reconnaissance mission in northern Mali. And deadly violence has rocked the north in recent months as Tuareg separatists push back against central authority.
Read more at news24.com