Faced with an escalation of jihadist attacks, the presidents of five Sahelian countries and Emmanuel Macron agreed Monday to strengthen their military cooperation against the jihadists, while the French president angrily denounced "unworthy" anti-French speeches carried in particular by " foreign powers ".
As the French President demanded, the leaders of the G5 Sahel countries he had invited to Pau (south-west of France) signed a joint declaration in which they "expressed the wish for the continuation of the military engagement of France in the Sahel ".
A response eagerly awaited by Paris to the rise of anti-French sentiment, in particular in Mali and Burkina. At their joint press conference on Monday evening, however, the latter did not comment on the subject.
The participants also agreed on strategic developments in the anti-jihadist struggle, concentrating their efforts on certain points, increasing the training efforts of the Sahel armies and calling on all countries and partners wishing to contribute to participate in a "Coalition for the Sahel" .
While the United States is considering disengagement from its troops in Africa, the G5 Sahel countries have also "expressed their gratitude for the crucial support provided by the United States and expressed the wish for its continuity" .
"It is an important ally that we must safeguard, insisted the Burkinabe Roch Kaboré, president in office of the G5 Sahel. Their disengagement" would be bad news for us ", added Emmanuel Macron." I hope to be able to convince the president Trump says the fight against terrorism is also playing out in this region, "he said.
To demonstrate France's determination, Emmanuel Macron announced the dispatch of 220 additional men, who will reinforce Barkhane's French troops, already 4,500 strong.
He who had mentioned a possible withdrawal of French soldiers in the region, criticized by part of African public opinion, said he had been fully reassured on this point by his African counterparts.
Questioned by a Malian journalist who reported the doubts of part of the population of his country on the reasons for the French military presence, Emmanuel Macron angrily denounced the anti-French speeches.
"The speeches that I have heard in recent weeks are unworthy" because they serve other interests, "either those of terrorist groups, or those of other foreign powers who simply want to see Europeans further, because "They have their own agenda, an agenda of mercenaries", denounced the French president, in a possible allusion notably to Russia.
"I know who fell for the safety of Malians and Malians, Nigeriens and Burkinabè: French soldiers", he hammered, referring to the 41 French soldiers killed in the Sahel since 2013.
– "Joint Command" –
The French President and his African counterparts – Roch Marc Christian Kaboré (Burkina), Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (Mali), Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani (Mauritania), Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger) and Idriss Déby (Chad) – have especially decided to coordinate more their military action by concentrating it on the area of the three borders (Mali, Niger, Burkina), and by targeting in priority the EIGS (Islamic State in the Grand Sahara).
This coordination will be carried out "under the joint command of the Barkhane force and the joint force of the G5 Sahel", specifies the joint declaration, which also evokes measures to restore the presence of the State, the administrations and public services in large areas where it is no longer, notably in Mali, and the pursuit of development aid efforts, one of the other strategic axes of the G5.
The summit concluded with a working dinner joined by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the President of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
This is an opportunity for Africans and their French ally to plead for reinforced support from Europeans who are still reluctant to invest fully in the anti-jihadist struggle in the Sahel.
The summit was held the day after the announcement of the worst losses suffered by the Nigerien army Thursday in a jihadist attack: 89 soldiers killed, in the Chinégodar camp, near Mali.
According to the UN, more than 4,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2019 in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
A new summit associating the G5 Sahel States and France will be held in June 2020 in Nouakchott, "meeting" to take stock of the strategy announced.
"We need convincing and rapid results, we are all playing on the credibility of each of our countries and of the coalition," concluded President Kaboré.