Today at doorstep of the European Council in Brussels French President Macron announced the a postponement to early 2020 of a meeting of Sahel countries, he said.
“I made the decision yesterday with President Issoufou to postpone” the summit “because of the many deaths that Niger unfortunately suffered two days ago,” said Emmanuel Macron on Thursday upon his arrival at the European Council in Brussels.
The decision to postpone the event, which was to address French military presence in the region as well as the fight against terrorsit groups engaged in jihad, follows an attack on a remote military camp in Niger.
Islamist militants killed 71 soldiers in an attack on a military camp located near the border with Mali, an army spokesman said on Wednesday, in the deadliest raid against the Nigerien military in living memory.
The attack on the the military camp near border with Mali lasted three hours, and claimed lives of 71 soldiers, and forced President Mahamadou Issoufou to shorten his trip to Egypt.
Announced early December by the French head of state at the end of the NATO summit in London, the African event was aimed to bring together the leaders of the G5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad) and clarify the framework of intervention of France in the region.
“It is a need that responds to the observation of growing incomprehension in national public opinion, in the Sahel and in France,” said a source at the Elysée Palace. “You have to be able to come out of this summit with a common expression that recalls why France is there to support.”
Launched in August 2014, Operation Barkhane mobilizes some 4,500 French soldiers against the jihadist groups active in the region, soldiers called to be replaced by G5 Sahel force made up of 5,000 men from the local armies.
But in recent years, the French presence and that of 13,000 Blue Helmets of the MINUSMA in Mali have been questioned by inhabitants and militants who denounce “occupation forces”.