Monday, February 26, 2024

Macron paved the way for a renewed French military presence in Africa


President Emmanuel Macron has opened the door to making the French military presence in Africa a more covert tool, announcing a reassessment of the military budget for the 2024-2030 period in light of the return to war in Europe.

Long term relationship
As French forces left Mali by the end of the summer and deployed thousands of troops to fight terrorists in the Sahel region, Macron saw it as a “strategic imperative” to embrace “smaller and less vulnerable powers” in Africa. In his traditional speech at the French Armed Forces Ministry on Wednesday, ahead of National Day on July 14, Macron stressed his desire to “succeed in building a long-term strong close relationship with African armies, rebuilding training capacity. Here and there,” French forces remain in the second line, while in Ukraine. Paris wants to prepare its forces for a serious conflict like the ongoing war. France, a former colonial power in many African countries, has a strong military presence there. In addition to its commitment to the Sahel region, which is in the midst of a restructuring process, it has deployed elements in Senegal, Gabon and Djibouti.

A renewed partnership
On the other hand, the French president stressed the need for “continuity between our diplomatic offers and our renewed moves towards African partnership and our development activities in Africa”. “It’s a profound paradigm shift,” he said. By seceding from Mali, France would halve its presence in the Sahel by keeping only about 2,500 troops in the region. But Paris has said for months that it is not giving up on the fight against terrorism and that it is open to new interventions in talks with the Sahel and Gulf of Guinea states.
In Niger, the French will maintain more than 1,000 troops and aviation capabilities to provide fire support and intelligence as part of a “combat partnership” with the Nigerian armed forces, along with 250 French troops near the border with Mali against al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. Or ISIS. On Friday, Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu and Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna will visit Niger. The next day Lokorno leaves for Ivory Coast.

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New military budget
The French president also announced a reassessment of budgetary needs in the defense sector with a new military programming law (2024-2030) more suited to “the possibility of a return to more serious conflict”. A draft of the text “should be completed by the end of this year,” he said. It will then be “discussed in Parliament” in early 2023. A few years later in 2017, Macron began introducing a sharp increase in defense funding. The forces budget will record the highest growth in 2022, increasing by three billion to reach 44 billion euros in 2023. Finally, he asked the armies to “do more” to create a “national service” (Service National University) aimed at young people, mobilizing “the whole of French society” to face the challenges before them. “It is not a question of the militarization of the youth, not even society, but a question of a time when the nation must search for the core of its history and its deeper meaning. You have to make more efforts for the republic.” Macron said. The “Universal National Service” program was a promise of Emmanuel Macron’s 2019 campaign. After the first experience with two thousand young volunteers between the ages of 15 and 17, after the cancellation of one course in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 15,000 young people attended synchronization courses across France last summer in all parts of the country. This year, the comprehensive national service aims to cover a total of fifty thousand youth. But the plan is far from achieving consensus among high school unions and the military, which are already working on several fronts.

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Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
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