The summit on the Sahel wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, canceled last week after a jihadist attack in Niger, was rescheduled on January 13 in Pau (southwest of France) to reassess “the objectives of French engagement” in the area, announced on Monday the Elysee Palace.
The presidents of the five G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania) « confirmed their agreement and their availability for this date, » Elysée, who did not, in a first, not mentioned the case of Mauritania.
The presidents of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, as well as that of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, should therefore be present.
“The purpose of this summit will be to define to reassess the framework and the objectives of French engagement in the Sahel. It will also lay the foundations for increased international support for the countries of the Sahel, ”said the Elysee Palace in a press release.
To this end, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for the Foreign Affairs Josep Borrel was also invited, the source said.
France has been making calls for several months to its European allies to get more involved in the Sahel crisis. The French president has said he wants to rethink Operation Barkhane « in the coming weeks ».
“Clarifying” the positions on the French military presence
Emmanuel Macron had “invited” members of G5 Sahel on December 4 to find him on December 16 for a summit in Pau, the city where seven of the 13 French soldiers of the Barkhane anti-Jihadist force were killed on November 25 in Mali.
Emmanuel Macron asked them to “clarify” their position on the French military presence in the Sahel, which is increasingly challenged by their public opinions.
He stressed that he expected them to « publicly » assume that French soldiers were in the Sahel at the request of the countries concerned, and not for « neocolonial purposes ». Otherwise, he said, he would draw all the consequences.
But the message had been perceived as a degrading “summons” by many in the countries concerned.
Burkinabè President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré criticized « the form and content » of Mr. Macron’s statement on the meeting on December 11 in a televised interview, which he said « lacked tact ».