'Do your duty' in Africa, Hollande tells world powers

French President François Hollande called on the international community on Thursday to fulfil its "duty" to take action against Islamist extremists in Africa, saying that France could not go it alone.


"There is a message that I want to send to the international community and to the biggest countries," he told a bi-annual presidential press conference on Thursday. "Do your job. Don't give lessons – act. Do your duty. No one else will do it in your place.”

"France cannot settle all the world's conflicts," he said.

The African Union has backed plans for a regional five-nation force of 7,500 troops to defeat the deadly rise of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, and Chad has deployed its army to join the fight against the jihadists.

France is supporting the operations by carrying out reconnaissance flights over border areas of Chad and Cameroon to provide the two nations with intelligence, defence officials in Paris have said.

"We must help the Africans much more to act against terrorism,” Hollande said. “If we don't do it, countries will be destabilised once again."

France deployed troops to the Sahel region of Africa to fight against militant extremists after helping oust the Islamist forces that had seized much of northern Mali in 2013. The country is also taking part in US-led operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The United Nations Security Council last month called for a multinational military effort to tackle Boko Haram, expressing concern that its incursions were undermining peace and stability in Central and West Africa.

Fresh fighting in Fotokol

Hollande’s comments came the same day that Cameroonian officials said Boko Haram fighters had shot or burned to death some 90 civilians and wounded 500 in ongoing fighting in a border town near Nigeria.

Some 800 militants attacking the town of Fotokol have “burned churches, mosques and villages, and slaughtered youths who resisted joining them to fight Cameroonian forces”, Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakari said.

The Nigeria-based insurgents also looted livestock and food in the fighting, which began Wednesday and was continuing on Thursday, Bakari told The Associated Press.

Boko Haram has been using civilians as human shields, making it difficult to attack their positions. Reinforcements have arrived in Fotokol, according to a military spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck.

Many schools have been razed and students slaughtered by the insurgents, whose nickname, Boko Haram, means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language.

At least 13,000 people have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes since Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009.

In recent months Boko Haram, which says it aims to establish an Islamic caliphate, has increased its cross-border raids, threatening regional security.

The group has stepped up its attacks in recent weeks, a move thought to be aimed at disrupting presidential and parliamentary elections set for February 14.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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