Sahel needs support to tackle security - Minister

Sahel/fight against terrorism/Libya – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to RFI

Niamey, 3 May 2016

Q. – This is your third joint visit with your German counterpart. Does it mean that you have the same interests here in the Sahel, or that you have complementary interests?

THE MINISTER – I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of interests above all, but if we’re thinking in terms of interests, we must think from the point of view of all Europeans. My strong belief is that Europeans must be conscious of the challenges facing them and the Africans, which are shared challenges. Among others there’s the demographic challenge: in 2016 Africa has just over a billion inhabitants, this figure will double by 2050 and in certain countries the population will triple. So they’re countries which are already facing huge problems, and if nothing is done to help them the problems will increase.

Security problems are arising now. There’s no future for those countries without support for both development projects and security policies.

Q. – Can Europe do better when it comes to military equipment? The Malian Defence Minister said this yesterday. For the moment, Europe can’t equip an army such as the Malian army; can things get moving?

THE MINISTER – Europe is doing a lot in terms of development, but it may be able to allocate its funds better. Certain countries in particular have acquired an army, Europe has made a very strong contribution in terms of training, but where things are increasingly difficult is in equipment. I actually think it would be in our interests to step up our assistance to ensure that African countries have stronger and greater autonomy.

Q. – You were in Gao; Operation Barkhane is costly. Does France have the means to keep Barkhane going for as long as the fight against terrorism in the region demands it?

THE MINISTER – We must set ourselves priorities. France can’t be everywhere and finance everything. In this respect, we’re in line with the decision the French President took in January 2013. We must continue in the framework of what’s being done with the European Union to train the Malian army, and we must continue the United Nations’ international peace mission. As for Barkhane, it’s deployed in several countries and it’s supporting the considerable efforts being made, particularly by the countries. So it’s essential to continue, and if we want to set ourselves long-term goals where we’ll end up disengaging, we must also deal with the other problems, and there’s another one which is considerable, namely Libya.

Q. – You’ve said a solution in Mali must involve Mali, but isn’t Libya the key?

THE MINISTER – Libya’s been discussed by everyone we talk to, in Mali as much as in Niger, but everywhere we go we talk about it. The current situation in Libya reflects the consequences of the 2011 intervention. Today everything has to be rebuilt, and this must involve a political stage. There’s an initial phase that is providing hope, namely the establishment of a government with Mr Sarraj, who has taken office in Tripoli, but we must absolutely support that government so that it takes control of the country. But we must also – as we’ve started doing at European level with a mission codenamed Sophia to fight people-smugglers – extend this action by giving it the means to intervene to combat the arms trafficking that fuels Daesh [so-called ISIL] in the central Mediterranean.

We must give ourselves the means to ensure political stability in Libya: the more stability there is, the more economic development there will be and the more we’ll ultimately be able to restore the prospect of the French military engagement not being forever but finishing when the security conditions are met.

We can do this provided there’s very strong political will, and at any rate we, France and Germany, are determined to play our role in that./.

Published on 07/02/2017

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