French President Emmanuel Macron insisted on Tuesday at the G5 Sahel summit in N’Djamena on the need to strengthen both the fight against jihadist groups affiliated to Al Qaeda and the return of the state to the neglected territories of the region.
One year after the summit in Pau (south-western France), « we have managed to achieve real results in the area of the three borders », between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and the main target group, the organisation Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS), « has lost its grip and is suffering many losses, » the French president greeted during a video conference intervention from Paris.
« Beheading these organisations »
But al-Qaeda-affiliated organisations, the GSIM (Group in Support of Islam and Muslims) and Katiba Macina, « whose highest hierarchy continues to feed a jihadist agenda, » remain a threat in the Sahel, Macron said, promising « enhanced action » to « try to go and decapitate these organisations ».
5,100 men in the Sahel
The president did not mention any reduction in the French antiJihadist operation Barkhane, which currently has some 5,100 men in the Sahel. Mr. Macron welcomed the decision announced the day before by Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno to send 1,200 soldiers in this area of the « three borders ». It is « a strong and courageous decision that will strengthen the strength of the G5 Sahel, » he said. In addition, « the international mobilization for the Sahel has basically never been so powerful, » said the head of state, thanking the European countries participating in the new special forces group Takuba, « who agree to share the risk of the ultimate sacrifice that our soldiers take.
« Giving people a perspective ».
Beyond the military aspect, the French president insisted on the need to « give a perspective to the people of the Sahel », calling for a « second leap: the return of security and services to the people » and calling for « a boost at the highest level of the State » to reinvest the neglected territories of the region. « It is through collective action and concrete action on the ground that we will succeed. France will continue to play its part because I know that everyone is mobilised here, » he concluded.
Delicate area of the « three borders
The N’Djamena summit takes place one year after the Pau summit, which, faced with the threat of a break-up under the jihadists’ blows, had led to a military reinforcement in the « three borders » zone and the sending of 600 additional French soldiers, increasing them from 4,500 to 5,100. Despite the claimed tactical successes, the picture remains very bleak in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. More than eight years after the start of the crisis, hardly a day goes by without an armed attack, the explosion of an artisanal mine or abuses against civilians. The two million displaced persons mark was passed in January.