Published on :
The military supply convoy of the French army that left Côte d’Ivoire has finally arrived in Gao, after numerous clashes and demonstrations on the road, against the presence of France in the Sahel, which in particular left three dead in Niger. Story and explanations.
A French military convoy on its way to Mali from Côte d’Ivoire ten days ago finally arrived in Gao overnight from Sunday to Monday. His journey has been interspersed with clashes and demonstrations which in particular left three dead in Niger.
These incidents, the first of this kind, once again shed light on the question of the presence of the French force in the Sahel, according to France 24 reporter Cyril Payen. “It is an event which is taken seriously at the highest summit of the French General Staff and undoubtedly beyond”, explains our journalist. “We are in a somewhat complicated period of resizing of Operation Barkhane “.
The French military presence in the Sahel, deployed as part of Operation Barkhane to fight against jihadist groups, is increasingly criticized in its former colonies such as in Niger, Burkina Faso and other African countries in the region. ‘Where is. “Without this terrestrial umbilical cord, it will be complicated to continue this operation in the current terms”, specifies the reporter from France 24. “This can set a precedent”.
“It is a disaster scenario for this operation in full change”, summarizes Cyril Payen.
“We had to stay calm and patient”
This convoy, the 32nd since the start of the operation in Gao, was targeted on Saturday when it entered Niger soil after being blocked for a week in Burkina Faso by several hundred people protesting against the presence of France. in the Sahel.
“We were to escort a convoy from Abidjan to Gao. We started our convoy on Sunday, November 14. We faced the first demonstrations, provocations and intimidation in Burkina Faso from quite determined demonstrators,” said on the France 24 antenna, Captain François-Xavier, unit commander of the 2e REP, leader of the military convoy. “It meant waiting for the situation to calm down before crossing.”
Less than 30 km after crossing the Niger border, he faced new protests near the western town of Téra, where he was taking an overnight break. “This time, this blockage was more important, better organized and the whole convoy was attacked including in particular the civilians whom we had to escort”, explains Captain François-Xavier.
“We faced a situation that was really unexpected. We had to stay calm and patient,” he adds. “We are talking about demonstrations, but I have the impression of having faced scenes of urban guerrilla warfare.”
“I felt that the situation could degenerate. My objective was to get out of this situation which was very tense,” said this French soldier.
In a statement, the Nigerien interior ministry said Sunday that the French force Barkhane, under escort of the national gendarmerie, “in its attempt to extricate itself” has “used force”. He then reported a toll of 2 dead and 18 injured, 11 of which were serious. “An investigation is open to determine the exact circumstances of this tragedy and to locate the responsibilities”, continued the ministry.
According to Captain François-Xavier, “there was no use of weapons against the crowd”. “I cannot confirm the toll that has been announced,” he said.
With Reuters and AFP