Macron meets G5 Sahel leaders amid questions over France’s strategy
Leaders of France and five Sahel countries on Monday begin a two-day summit to discuss the G5-Sahel grouping’s anti-insurgency operations amid mounting local dissatisfaction over the military-heavy approach that has failed to stabilise the poorly administered region.
Leaders of the so-called G5 Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are attending the two-day summit in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, with French President Emmanuel Macron joining via videolink.
The meeting comes a year after France boosted its Sahel deployment, seeking to wrench back momentum in the brutal, long-running battle.
But despite touted military successes, jihadists remain in control of vast swathes of territory and attacks are unrelenting.
Six UN peacekeepers have been killed in Mali this year alone, and France has lost five soldiers since December.
Islamist fighters in the Sahel first emerged in northern Mali in 2012, during a rebellion by ethnic Touareg separatists which was later overtaken by the jihadists.
France intervened to rout the insurgents, but the jihadists scattered, taking their campaign into the ethnic powder keg of central Mali and then into Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, according to the UN, while more than two million people have fled their homes.
Calls for a course correction strategy
The crushing toll has fuelled perceptions that the jihadists cannot be defeated by military means alone.
At a summit in the French city of Pau last year, G5 Sahel leaders agreed to step up military cooperation to tackle the threat. “We have no choice. We need results,” said Macron at the end of the January 2020 summit.
But some experts believe there is a choice between focusing on a solely military strategy or viewing it as a component of a strategy that includes governance, political representation, fiscal reforms, anti-corruption as well as human rights issues…..read more