NNA – French President Francois Hollande said on Friday that those battling jihad in Africa and the Middle East were like France part of “the same fight” against extremism.
‘It’s the same fight’
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.
Mali had called on France four years ago to help force jihadist fighters 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 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 has boosted its military involvement on the continent.
In a bid to help crush the jihadist 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 minimise 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 jihadist 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.” —AFP