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François Hollande’s African adventures


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21607847-french-are-reorganising-security-increasingly-troubled-region-fran-ois-hollandesThe Economist:

The French are reorganising security in an increasingly troubled region

Jul 19th 2014 | PARIS


FRANCE’s president, François Hollande, took office in 2012 knowing little of Africa. He may tread in the footsteps of his mentor, François Mitterrand, but he had none of the former Socialist president’s cosy ties to African strongmen and French businessmen through the web of interests known as Françafrique. Yet Africa has a way of intruding on French politics. And Mr Hollande’s tour of Ivory Coast, Niger and Chad between July 17th and 19th takes place amid a security rethink.


Accompanied by a group of businessmen, Mr Hollande’s trip is partly meant to promote investment and contracts against Chinese competition. But the more pressing goal is to prepare for a new French security organisation. Twice last year, with uncharacteristic decisiveness, Mr Hollande sent French troops into African conflicts: to beat back a jihadist incursion in Mali, and to curb ethno-religious warfare in the Central African Republic (CAR). Now France wants to reorganise its troops in the region, under the banner “Operation Barkhane”, as a 3,000-strong counter-terrorism force.




The new emphasis on counter-terrorism reflects shifting French military doctrine in Africa. Six years ago, under Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Hollande’s conservative predecessor, a defence review concluded that France should concentrate less on bilateral defence ties to ex-colonies in French-speaking Africa and more on a “strategic arc” of instability from north Africa to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf. With this in mind, Mr Sarkozy closed one of the three permanent French military garrisons in sub-Saharan Africa, in Senegal, and opened a new one in Abu Dhabi. French forces were to act less as regional gendarmes propping up vulnerable leaders, and do more for cross-border security and to combat terrorism.




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