French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said a West African force set up to fight Islamist militants was taking too long to get down to work and he urged greater cooperation between Europe and Africa to tackle trafficking in the region.
Thousands of U.N. peacekeepers, French troops and U.S. military trainers and drone operators have failed to stem a growing wave of jihadist violence, leading international powers to pin their hopes on the new G5 Sahel force.
The G5 Sahel initiative – composed of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – faces immense challenges in trying to bolster security to region.
“I believe that it is not going fast enough,” Macron, who is on a three-day tour of West Africa, said alongside Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore. “It is indispensable that we win this war as quickly as possible.”
The force will eventually swell to 5,000 men from 7 battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.
Underscoring security dangers in the region, a grenade was thrown at French soldiers wounding three civilians in the Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou shortly before Macron’s arrival. It was unclear who was behind the incident.
The threat of Islamist militants was highlighted last month by an attack in Niger in which eight U.S. and Nigerien troops were killed, prompting American officials to predict U.S. involvement in the region would intensify.
Macron, who after Burkina travels to Ghana and Ivory Coast, is aiming to focus his trip on youth and boost cooperation on education, the digital economy and the environment. The visit will also focus heavily on migration after migration will top the agenda.
Macron said he would call for greater co-operation between Europe and Africa to tackle traffickers of people, drugs and arms during a leaders summit in Ivory Coast on Wednesday.