France, African States Unite Against Terrorism

Francois Hollande (R) and Modibo Keita meet on Jan. 13.
Francois Hollande (R) and Modibo Keita meet on Jan. 13.

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that those battling terrorism in Africa and the Middle East were like France part of “the same fight” against terror.

Hollande spoke ahead of a summit with African leaders in Mali with the fight against extremists, the struggle to improve governance and the migrant crisis high on the agenda, AFP reported.

Mali had called on France four years ago to help force militants out of key northern cities. To this day, 4,000 French troops remain in the country and across the Sahel region.

“It’s the same fight, the same stakes,” Hollande said while meeting troops in Gao, the fractious city in northern Mali that is home to a French military base.

“The terrorists who attack our land, who commit acts on our soil, are allied with those who are in the Levant, in Iraq and Syria, but here as well, in the Sahel,” Hollande said.

Earlier, his foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault urged African nations to deal with the security threats they face but also to look at how development was progressing.

Ministers from at least 30 nations met in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday in advance of the arrival of heads of state to the Africa-France summit on Saturday. Many of the nations attending the gathering were once colonies of France, which in recent years have boosted their military involvement on the continent.

In a bid to help crush the militant threat, France has trained more than 20,000 African soldiers every year since 2013, according to a French diplomatic source.

By 2020, the number of French-trained troops is expected to reach 25,000 a year.

The training drive aims to minimize the need for direct military interventions in African conflicts, such as those launched in Mali and the Central African Republic in 2013.

However, the situation in key nations such as Mali remains far from stable. Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Alpha Barry said the militants’ threat did not only impact security, but governance and the economy as well.

“Terrorist groups operate in several countries,” Barry said. “If we want to attract investment ... we have to work on peace and security for our nations.”

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