French president reassures soldiers fighting in Niger

2017-12-23 19:00
French president Emmanuel Macron. (Markus Schreiber, AP)

French president Emmanuel Macron. (Markus Schreiber, AP)

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Niamey - French President Emmanuel Macron visited and dined with soldiers stationed in Niger who are fighting against extremism in the Sahel, reassuring them that France would not abandon the region to extremists.

"The Sahel is a priority. It's that which plays a part in the future of the African continent, but equally and without doubt, a part of our future. We must not leave the Sahel in the hands of terrorists," he said late Friday amid 500 soldiers with Operation Barkhane at Niger's airport in Niamey, the capital.

In a show of support for French troops based in Niger, he brought with him the chef from the Elysee presidential palace, who oversaw a meal for the French troops in addition to American, Canadian and German forces.

Macron is visiting Niger Friday and Saturday, wanting to encourage Niger's growing military efforts to fight terrorism in West Africa. France has thousands of troops there in its largest overseas military operation and wants African forces to take a more prominent role.

Conflict 

He encouraged the soldiers to redouble vigilance and hold onto courage, while also emphasizing that the military response isn't the only answer to defeating extremists such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram in the region.

"We need to better cordinate our defence and development efforts and our diplomatic efforts. This is the heart of the strategy we are deploying," he said, calling the combined approach indispensable to address the longterm root of the conflict. "We must show him that we are here, and that we are gaining ground again and we must restore the confidence of our partner armies by providing them with support to redeploy to the region."

Macron supported the newly formed G-5 Sahel force that will work alongside the operation and is made up of African soldiers from Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso. A coordinated strategy across countries is needed, he said.

Macron thanked the soldiers for their dedication and paid tribute to those who have fallen.

The French president on Saturday will meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou, and is expected to discuss migrant trafficking through the area.

Read more on:    emmanuel macron  |  france  |  niger  |  west africa

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