West African instability risks winning against militants – French official


PARIS (Reuters) – Mali and Burkina Faso must guarantee at a summit this week that their internal political problems will not reverse fragile military successes against Islamist militants in the Sahel region, a French presidential source said on Monday. .Former colonial power, France has deployed thousands of soldiers in the arid region south of the Sahara Desert since 2013, and now has 5,100 soldiers there. But attacks by groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are on the increase.

Leaders of the G5 Sahel states of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Nouakchott to assess recent military victories and plan next steps.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is expected to confirm a contribution to a special forces unit in the Sahel, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also participate by video call.

But it is feared that recent advances will derail in a context of political instability in the Sahel.

“All the progress that has been made is fragile and can be called into question if the political dynamic does not follow,” said the French official before a summit.

“We see it in the context of Burkina and Mali … So (the challenge) is to put guarantees so that these electoral contexts do not weaken the gains. ”

Burkina Faso will hold legislative and presidential elections in November during which the outgoing president, Marc Roch Kabore, is expected to run for a second term against opponents contesting his approach to the fight against militants.

Instability in Mali has raised growing concern in recent weeks after thousands of people took to the streets for the second time in a month to ask President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign.

Keita, in the middle of his second five-year term after the 2018 election, faced an upsurge in militant attacks.

Report by John Irish; edited by Bate Felix and Mark Heinrich

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