West & Central Africa

Macron to support 5000-strong army to fight Islamists in West Africa

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has called for a multi-national approach to fighting Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram in West Africa.

He promised to assist in raising a 5000 strong army to meet the challenge, promising that France will support the forces with 70 tactical vehicles, operational gear and communications.

“Every day we must combat terrorists, thugs, murderers whose names and faces we must forget, but whom we must steadfastly and with determination eradicate together,” Macron said in a visit to Bamako, capital city of Mali.

The 5000 strong army to be deployed by September is in addition to 12,000 UN peacekeepers in Mali. The French president promised that the force would “fight against terrorism and the trafficking of drugs and humans.”

He added, “We cannot hide behind words, and must take actions.”

Each of the five Sahel countries would contribute about 10 million euros, toward the €423 million ($480 million) budget the force requires. The European Union has committed to give a support of €50 million ($57 million). Macron said France will give €8 million before the end of the year.  “There is urgency because those we’re confronting are not going to wait,” said Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. “It’s also clear that France alone must not continue to bear the burden of this fight against terrorism.”

A day before the meeting of the regional leaders with the French President, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (the “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims”) JNIM, linked to AQIM, released a video showing six foreign hostages; Sophie Petronin of France, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Stephen McGowan of South Africa, Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, , Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland and Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia.

The terrorist on the video sent a message declaring that “No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children,” mocking that the French President has come to “rescue” Sophie Petronin.