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France

Paris summit ends with vow to form pan-African force

© AFP

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-07

A two-day Africa-France summit ended in Paris on Saturday with French President François Hollande vowing to provide logistical and material support to build a pan-African military force capable of intervening in regional conflicts.

A meeting of nearly 40 African leaders came to a close in Paris on Saturday evening with French President François Hollande vowing to provide both logistical and material support to build a pan-African military force capable of intervening in regional conflicts.

Hollande concluded the two-day Africa-France summit by committing to help the African Union turn its plans for a rapid reaction force, which was agreed to in principle earlier this year, into reality.

"We all agreed on the fundamental principle that it is up to Africa to ensure its own security," he said.

France has offered to provide equipment, logistical support and advice on coordination for the force, and will seek to persuade Britain, Germany and other European Union partners to help finance the project.

"Europe can play its part," Hollande said. "For Europe to ensure its own defence, Africa must be able to ensure its own. Our interests are linked. Terrorism knows no borders."

The summit also called for a "major international mobilisation to increase the level and predictability of financing for African peacekeeping operations".

As part of efforts to help African states create more effective military units, France has offered to provide training for 20,000 troops from the continent for five years.

French intervention in Central African Republic

The summit closes just two days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution authorising French and African troops to use force to protect civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) amid an explosion of deadly sectarian violence in the country.

Hollande also announced on Saturday that France, which had already deployed several hundred soldiers to CAR, would increase its military presence in the country to 1,600 troops by Saturday evening.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised France for being prepared to act in its former colony.

"There is an urgent need to avoid further deterioration of the situation," Ban said. "The chaos and suffering pose a major threat for the international community. I am particularly grateful to all countries contributing to (the African force already in CAR) MISCA and highly commend President François Hollande for mobilising troops so rapidly."

The CAR mission is France's second military operation in Africa this year. In January, Hollande sent more than 4,000 troops to Mali, where Islamist groups had seized control of much of the north of the country and had threatened to advance on the capital Bamako.

The operations have continued a long-established pattern of France intervening militarily on the continent, but Hollande's government insists its approach represents a break from the past, when Paris was often accused of propping up undemocratic regimes and cynically pursuing its own interests in the region.

French officials framed the Mali operation as vital to prevent the country becoming a new Afghanistan-style stronghold for armed Islamist groups, which could destabilise a region where Europe has vital strategic energy interests as well as potentially exporting terrorism.

The intervention in CAR meanwhile has been couched as an essentially humanitarian operation designed to avoid thousands of needless deaths as tit-for-tat sectarian killings spiral out of control.

France's decision to act in both cases has won praise if little in the way of concrete support from its allies, most notably from the United States, which has hailed the "strong leadership" shown by Hollande over CAR.

While African leaders are keen to address the continent's myriad security problems and reduce their dependence on the former colonial powers at times of crisis, France has a financial interest in scaling back its commitments.

Paris currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed at bases across Africa and the cost of maintaining them stands at 400 million euros ($540 million) per year.

On the economic front, the French export credit agency Coface pledged 15 billion euros in guarantees for Africa trade over the next five years. France has set a target of doubling business with Africa by 2020.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2013-12-07

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