The View from Paris : Africa Should ‘Ensure its Own Security’
Africa must first “ensure its own security” so it can realize its “destiny”, asserted French President François Hollande when addressing some 40 African leaders as a key Franco-African security summit opened Friday in Paris. French President Hollande also pledged to help with the creation of a special African rapid-reaction force that would train as many as 20,000 soldiers each year. The gathering – which focuses on security generally and an ongoing military mission in the Central African Republic more specifically – opened only hours after news of the death of Nelson Mandela was made public.
After Hollande opened the summit with a tribute to the iconic anti-apartheid leader, the delegates observed a minute of silence in his honor. South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane urged African leaders to continue Mandela’s work for peace as well as security. French President then highlighted the fact that some African forces were already capable of leading operations, such as the African Union’s current mission in Somalia. Hollande also added that Europe and Africa must stand together to fight global threats such as terrorism.
Paris still exercises significant influence in Africa and is a major player in many key security issues affecting the continent. France has already deployed 1,600 troops in Central African Republic (CAR), where sectarian violence has recently left hundreds dead. UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised France for being prepared to act in its former colony. 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.