French civil society organizations are asking what status and mandate French soldiers should have in the Sahel today. On Tuesday, May 23rd, General Bruno Baratz, who commands the French Forces in the Sahel, assured that there is no longer a French operation in the Sahel to express the idea that the philosophy that guided the defunct Barkhane force has become obsolete and that French soldiers now serve the host countries of Niger and Chad.
A reflection is currently underway with other West African countries to extend this presence. The words of the French general aroused the indignation of the associations “Tournons la Page” and “CCFD-Terre solitaire”, which denounced a lack of transparency and democratic debate.
Robin Guittard, the spokesperson for “CCFD-Terre solitaire”, has noted that in 2023, France’s external operation in the Sahel will no longer be able to remain unnamed, as it has grown to the largest French military deployment abroad with 2,500 soldiers, larger than the 500 soldiers sent to Romania last year in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We continue on the same errors, that is to say, to carry out a strategy and a French policy in this region without any democratic debate, without any consultation. We are also calling on French parliamentarians to take up this question, to question the executive, which makes announcements to us without informing us about the status, of the mandate of these French soldiers. So, it is important to recover from the public debate at a time when there is a massive rejection of French policy in the Sahel, but more broadly in French-speaking Africa, and when there is an issue of acceptance, “continues Robin Guitard.