French President Emmanuel Macron said that the fight against jihadism in the Sahel was at “a turning point”, calling on the five countries in this African region to redefine “more clearly the objectives”.
Macron was speaking on Sunday in Niger’s capital city Niamey, where he was paying his respects at the graves of 71 Nigerien soldiers killed in December.
“The coming weeks are absolutely decisive for our fight against terrorism. We are at a turning point in this war. We must (…) redefine the objectives more clearly at the summit in Pau (south-west France) on January 13,”said Macron, standing beside his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.
“Military, political and development objectives for the next 6, 12 and 18 months must be defined much more clearly,” said Macron.
Macron arrived in Niger after wrapping up a 48-hour visit to the Ivory Coast. Security issues in the troubled Sahel region have dominated Macron’s African visit, with the French leader facing increasing criticism over Paris’s role in the G5 Sahel force.
The leaders of the anti-jihadist G5 Sahel military alliance are due to attend this summit in France on January 13, when Macron said they would clarify the “political and strategic framework” of the operation after tensions emerged.
‘No imperialist intentions’
Regional leaders have been demanding a respectable and respectful relationship with the former colonial power.
In response, Macron has called for political clarity from regional powers and insisted that “France is not there with imperialist intentions”.
This was a message he repeated on arrival in Niamey.
“Everywhere in the region, opposition movements and groups are demanding the French presence is imperialist or neo-colonial. They tend to think that as soon as there is a difficulty on the ground, it is France’s fault,” said Macron in Niger’s capital city.
“President Issoufou clearly reminded us in what capacity France has intervened at the express demand of the Nigerien state. In other words, sovereign figures think that they need French support through Operation Barkhane.”
This military operation is an ongoing French anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region, which commenced August 1 2014.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)