The war in Ukraine “concerns the West as a whole” but at the same time must not lead to “forgetting Africa’s security” needs, France’s armed forces minister Sebastien Lecornu said Saturday.
“We have a form of myopia in Europe and France, where the Ukraine war mobilises all our energy, and that is natural — it is a conflict that concerns the West as a whole,” said Lecornu in Ivory Coast after a visit to Niger.
“Yet it should not lead to forgetting about news on security in Africa,” he argued ahead of meeting with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
Earlier, Lecornu had talks with Ivorian counterpart Tene Birahima Ouattara on African security, notably in the Sahel.
While hailing France’s counter-terrorism efforts with Paris’ partners in the region in recent years, he said Paris had now embarked on a “new agenda” with its main friends and allies in West Africa.
Earlier this year, Paris announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali following the breakdown in relations with the ruling junta in the former French colony.
That ended a nearly 10-year deployment against jihadist groups that pose a growing threat in the region.
Initial battlefield success was followed by a grinding anti-insurgency operation and rising hostility from Malians.
France and its European allies have nevertheless vowed to keep fighting extremist groups in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron has long argued the Sahel is crucial for European security in the face of the growing jihadist threat.
During talks with Lecornu, Ivory Coast and Niger officials expressed the hope France would help notably with training their officers in France, his ministry said. Paris would also provide technological support, said the ministry.
On Wednesday, Macron said he had asked the government and military chiefs “to rethink our overall presence on the African continent by the autumn”.
He called for “a presence that is less static and less exposed” and “a closer relationship” with African armed forces.
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