Ihe French presidents have long loved the cheers of Africans, the small French flags waved on the road to airports, the crowds and the welcome change of scenery provided by the warmth of a highly organized spontaneous welcome, the celebration of “special ties » that unite France with many African countries. In Timbuktu, in 2013, after the launch of the “Serval” operation intended to block the breakthrough of the jihadists towards the south, while jubilant Malians thanked him, François Hollande had affirmed that he lived ” the most important day of [s]political life”. Emmanuel Macron seemed over the moon, in Ouagadougou, at the end of 2017, in front of an amphitheater of students applauding his promise to break with a postcolonial vision and to speak from now on as equals with Africans. “There is no more African policy for France! », he even proclaimed.
It would be too easy, when French soldiers are being expelled from Mali and Burkina Faso, when France is shouted down in the streets, when, on T-shirts, Vladimir Poutine has replaced Emmanuel Macron, to see only “the hand of Moscow” in this spectacular dismissal of France. If the mercenaries of the Wagner Group can offer their services – life insurance for the putschist military in power – if Africans “walk” in the crude Russian propaganda, it is because they see Vladimir Putin as a man who has taken up his country, something their leaders have never been able to do. It is also that in Mali, fundamental freedoms have been suppressed and that a climate of fear has spread. But, fundamentally, many Sahelians are turning their backs on France because they blame it for its inability to restore security.
However, this impotence is fundamentally the result of a lack of analysis: the jihadist attacks, of which the countries of the Sahel have been victims since the fall of the Libyan dictator Gaddafi in 2011 brought arms and combatants there, have turned into endogenous conflicts. . Jihadist fighters, originally foreigners, are now recruited from local communities victimized, held to ransom or abandoned by the central power, or faced with inter-community conflicts – often linked to land use – that are never arbitrated. Over the years, jihadist groups “ recruited locally by proposing an alternative mode of governance. France then found itself embroiled in a war that no longer targeted “terrorist groups”, but local, sometimes microlocal, insurrections. In the case of Mali, we can even speak of a civil war”explained to World January 6 Rémi Carayol, journalist specializing in Africa, author of Sahelian mirage. France at war in Africa. Serval, Barkhane and after (The Discovery, 2023).
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