Africa’s militant threat

Written on December 12, 2013 by Waya Quiviger in Africa, News

The West may have to help France in its efforts to suppress Islamic militancy in Africa

The deaths of two French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) have reminded the world of the deadly seriousness of France’s latest foreign foray to confront Islamists in their former colonies. Hundreds of troops are still in Mali, where they have helped force insurgents out of their northern city strongholds and into the desert. Now, a force of about 1,500 has been deployed to the CAR, where an alliance of rebels, known as Seleka, seized power in March. Communal fighting recently claimed many lives and the French have started to remove weapons from fighters in a bid to stop the violence.

While Britain and America continue their disengagement from overseas incursions in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has fallen to the French to take up the challenge posed by the spread of militant Islam in Africa. Long the region’s self-styled policeman, France has experience restoring regimes or thwarting rebellions. Over the past three decades, French forces have been deployed in Congo, Rwanda, Chad and the Ivory Coast as well as Mali and the CAR.

Foreign adventures are a useful distraction for political problems at home and President François Hollande certainly has plenty of those. But he has been anxious to distance himself from the more unilateralist stance of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. He exhibits a greater willingness to co-ordinate military action with local and African Union forces, and recently hosted a summit on peace and security on the continent.

The big question is whether the French should be left to get on with it without external military back-up. For now, they seem willing to take responsibility. But if the threat from militant Islam in North Africa continues to grow, their Western allies might have to provide more than moral and logistical support.


Published by The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk on December 11, 2013



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