France’s Troubles in West Africa Go Well Beyond a Failed Counter-Insurgency

France’s Troubles in West Africa Go Well Beyond a Failed Counter-Insurgency
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after a meeting via video-conference with leaders of the G5 Sahel countries, Feb. 16, 2021, Paris (AP photo by Francois Mori).

In mid-December, with little forewarning, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would soon be visiting Mali, a country in West Africa’s Sahel region that, along with several others there, has been afflicted with rising communal violence in recent years.

It seems that the surprise Macron trip was conceived in order to serve multiple goals. Foremost was the desire to call Mali’s interim leader, who took power in a military coup last May, to heel, and get him to commit to a calendar for democratic elections early in 2022. By the same token, Macron surely also wanted to personally warn the coup leader, Assimi Goita, that France would not abide the involvement of a Russian security company called Wagner as an operational presence in Mali’s ineffectual fight against violent Islamist groups.

In order to make his point all the more effectively, the French government announced that Macron would be accompanied during this diplomatic visit by two African heads of state: Mahamat Deby, the de facto ruler of Chad, another of France’s longtime Sahelian client states; and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS.

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