Africa-France summit opens in Malian capital

BAMAKO: French President Francois Hollande on Saturday hailed Mali as an “example” in the fight against terrorism, telling an Africa-France summit in the capital Bamako that the West African country had shown the world “there is no fatality in the face of terrorism.”
“Four years ago, Bamako was under the threat of a wide terrorist hold,” the French presidency quoted Hollande as saying.
“Today, terrorists no longer control any territory” in Mali, the president added.
More than 30 African leaders were due to attend the summit, including Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow, whom the meeting was expected to back in his attempts to be sworn in on January 19, despite outgoing President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to give up power.
Analysts said Hollande, who will not run for re-election in April, decided to hold the summit in Mali to showcase one of his biggest foreign policy successes, a French military intervention in January 2013 to turn back a militant and separatist insurgency in the country’s north.
Insecurity nevertheless persists, and 10,000 Malian and French security forces were deployed to protect the summit.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita praised Hollande as having been “sincere and loyal” towards Africa.
In addition to Mali, Hollande deployed French soldiers in the Central African Republic in December 2013 to stop massacres of civilians.
France has trained 65,000 African soldiers since 2013, according to the French government, which was expected to announce a new goal of training 25,000 soldiers annually at the summit.
The training is meant to reduce the need for French military interventions in Africa.
France currently has about 4,000 soldiers in the Sahel region to fight terrorism. Before the summit, Hollande visited a base of French troops in the Malian city of Gao, the French presidency said on Twitter.
France’s concerns also include promoting development in Africa to stem migration to Europe. Hollande announced that France would mobilise 23 billion euros ($24.5 billion) “for the development and growth in Africa” over the next five years. — DPA