French President François Hollande wrapped up a three-day tour of West Africa on Saturday with a visit to Chad, the future headquarters of a new French force designed to combat Islamist violence.
Operation Barkhane, named after a crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert, takes over from the French military mission in Mali, which had wrested tentative control from Islamists who had overrun the north of the former French colony.
That mission is being wound up, but 1,000 troops will remain in Mali's north. The rest will cover the states of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Hollande has said the Barkhane force will allow for a "rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis" in the region.
Hollande also stressed the importance of engagement by African forces.
Chadian President Idriss Deby agreed, saying it is not always France’s job to ensure security in the region, and Africans must also take charge.
The two met in Chad after Hollande visited Niger and Ivory Coast, where he inspected French military installations and met with fellow heads of state on security and development issues.
France also has some 2,000 peacekeepers deployed in the Central African Republic, another former French colony driven by religious and ethnic conflict.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Date created : 2014-07-19