Setback in the Sahel

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France continues its retreat from the Sahel. After Mali, it is Burkina Faso which wants to free itself from its diplomatic and military influence. The authorities of Ouagadougou have obtained the imminent departure of the 400 soldiers of the anti-terrorist operation Saber, stationed in the suburbs of the capital and whose range of action covered the entire region. Yesterday, Paris announced the recall of its ambassador, a sign of strong tension. Burkina Faso wants to diversify its partners and is turning in particular to Russia. France takes note of this without throwing oil on the fire.

Realism indeed invites us not to cling and to compel ourselves to be patient. Anti-French sentiment is spreading among the Sahelian population, fueled by pro-Russian propaganda. It is not new. In the 1980s, the anti-imperialist head of state Thomas Sankara already fiercely denounced the “colonialism” from Paris. Today, the exacerbation of passions corresponds to a serious deterioration in living conditions. Insecurity and the socio-economic crisis feed each other. France plays the role of scapegoat, its armed operations having, in fact, not brought back peace.

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The vacuum strategy is not an option, however. In Mali, the UN points out that the departure of Barkhane’s troops last year led to an increase in violence. Neither France nor the European Union has an interest in seeing the Sahel transform into a new Somalia, with collapsed state structures and territorial fragmentation. The Élysée says it is preparing a new strategy for the region. It will be necessary to combine security and development to prevent the situation from deteriorating throughout West Africa.

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