French PM urges joint stand to drive back jihadists in Sahel
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Sunday urged partners to commit to stand with Paris in driving back jihadi violence in the Sahel.
“We require everyone’s commitment to progress towards durable stabilisation. Nobody can boast of being able to do without the backing of others,” Philippe said, citing a Malian proverb at his troop’s headquarters at Gao.
He was speaking days after the African Union’s peace and security chief Smail Chergui urged member states to tackle the root causes of extremism in the Sahel region.
France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.
But Chergui voiced disappointment in difficulties faced in financing and equipping the force at a time when the future of the current UN mission MINUSMA is uncertain.
The Islamist revolt in the Sahel took off after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011. Jihadist attacks erupted in northern Mali as Boko Haram emerged in northern Nigeria.
Large areas of Mail remain out of contril, and the jihadists have gained ground in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, while Chad is battling unrest on its borders.
“It is the action of all, with (French-led anti-insurgent Operation) Barkhane, alongside Malian forces, which will drive back jihadism,” said Philippe, who arrived in Mali late Friday for a two-day visit.
On Sunday he addressed French, Malian, British and Estonian forces saying he wanted to salute the troops’ “remarkable and decisive” results to date, including the recently announced deaths of jihadists leaders Amadou Koufa and, last Thursday, Algerian Djamel Okacha, alias Yahya Abou El Hamame.
“Every day our enemies are suffering important losses, reducing their capacity to cause trouble,” said Philippe, though he conceded the threat has not disappeared.
Saturday he said 2,700 French forces in the region since 2014 “will remain as long as is necessary”.
While in Gao, Philippe, accompanied by Defence Minister Florence Parly, visited a monument to 24 French soldiers who have died in Mali to date.
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