French au­thor­i­ties fear fur­ther vi­o­lence

Business Day - - Front Page - Agency Staff Nouak­chott AFP

French au­thor­i­ties are wor­ried that an­other wave of “great vi­o­lence” and ri­ot­ing will be un­leashed in Paris this week­end by a hard core of sev­eral thou­sand yel­low vest protesters, an of­fi­cial in the French pres­i­dency said.

The EU and France say their to­tal in­vest­ment in devel­op­ment fund­ing aimed at pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ism in the Sa­hel will rise to €1.3bn, as the re­gion strug­gles with ji­hadism and law­less­ness.

The five Sa­hel states — Mau­ri­ta­nia, Burk­ina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been strug­gling against ex­trem­ism and law­less­ness along the Sa­hara’s south­ern rim since a Tuareg sep­a­ratist upris­ing in north­ern Mali in 2012.

The EU’s in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and devel­op­ment com­mis­sioner, Neven Mim­ica, told a con­fer­ence in the Mau­ri­ta­nian cap­i­tal that the bloc’s Sa­hel Pri­or­ity In­vest­ment Pro­gramme “now to­tals al­most €800m”, with an ad­di­tional €122m an­nounced on Thurs­day.

France will in­vest €500m in the “pri­or­i­ties” of the G5 Sa­hel, said French for­eign min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian. It will add €220m to €280m pledged.

“Half of this sum is for pro­jects al­ready planned or un­der way. The other half will be awarded in a speedy way over the next two years to en­able you to meet your pri­or­i­ties,” he said.

The five Sa­hel coun­tries told the meet­ing they need €1.9bn to help them fund pro­jects in bor­der re­gions vul­ner­a­ble to ji­hadists. They pro­vide 13%.

The gov­ern­ments hope that with an ar­ray of pro­jects, in­clud­ing build­ing schools, health cen­tres and im­prov­ing ac­cess to wa­ter, they can pre­vent com­mu­ni­ties from fall­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of ex­trem­ists.

Ji­hadism in the re­gion has been fu­elled by the chaos that en­gulfed Libya in 2011, the Is­lamist takeover of north­ern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in north­ern Nige­ria.

The ex­trem­ists were largely driven out of Mali in a French­led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion launched in Jan­uary 2013.

The France-backed fledgeling African re­gional force fight­ing ji­hadists is suf­fer­ing from a lack of fund­ing, and short­falls in equip­ment and train­ing have led to de­lays in its op­er­a­tions. /

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