France will cut its military presence in Africa and transform its bases into partnerships with African soldiers, Emmanuel Macron announced this week in advance of a major trip to the region.
Anti-French feeling is high in several former colonies in the Sahel, and Paris tries to counter growing Chinese and Russian influence on the continent with these remarks.
The commitment to revamp France’s military outposts follows the country’s recent pullout from Mali and Burkina Faso as a result of military coups that sparked disagreements with Paris. First, the ruling junta in Mali resulted in French troops leaving the country last year, and then army leaders in neighboring Burkina Faso asked Paris last month to withdraw its presence of some 400 special forces.
Macron said that the bases as they exist today are a legacy from the past. He pledged to “Africanize” the bases within the next few months. The number of French soldiers would decline, but training and equipment would be prioritized.
France, which led operations against Islamic terrorists in the Sahel for a decade, has approximately 3,000 troops in Africa, down from more than 5,000 two years ago.
Macron stated that he would not allow France to become the “ideal scapegoat” for local political problems on the ground after some African nations criticized France for failing to prevent Islamist militancy in the Sahel region.