FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron is to spend Christmas in West Africa where he will celebrate the end of the year with France’s troops serving in the region as part of his government’s fight against the rise of Islamic militancy.
With the growing rise of groups like Islamic State and Boko Haram across West Africa, France has troops stationed in the sub-region and is part of the global coalition against these sects. President Macron has thus decided to celebrate Christmas with French soldiers posted in the region, travelling to Ivory Coast to spend Yuletide with his troops posted there.
Far from protest strikes gripping France, President Macron will share a dinner cooked by his personal chef with 1,000 troops at the military base in Port-Bouet, near the Abidjan airport. In Ivory Coast, he will also meet French soldiers who took part in November in an anti-terrorist operation in Mali, where 13 men lost their lives.
Earlier this month, French forces and their African allies neutralised 25 jihadists in separate assaults in Mali and Burkina Faso. French military spokesman Colonel Frederic Barbry, said that in the latter raid, Mirage jets bombed a group that was clearly preparing a large-scale attack.
After leaving Ivory Coast, on Sunday, President Macron will pay a flying visit for talks with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic. Leaders of Niger Republic, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad are due to attend a summit in Paris on January 13.
In what is now becoming an annual ritual, President Macron spent Christmas in 2017 with troops deployed to Niger Republic and last year visited Chad. French soldiers in Ivory Coast serve as a support force in anti-jihadist operations and constitute the largest French contingent in Africa after the one in Djibouti.
President Macron has declared young people and sports to be priorities in his diplomatic activity and he is keen to illustrate the spirit of a speech in Ouagadougou in 2017, when he sought to shake off France’s reputation for post-colonial meddling on the continent, declaring that there is no more African policy by France. Two years after his first trip to Abidjan when he laid the foundation stone for a metro network, President Macron is due to finalise plans with Ivorian leader President Alasanne Ouattara to finance the vast construction effort, estimated at 1.5bn euros ($1.66bn).