France to invest $47 million in Sahel counterterrorism training program

France plans to invest 42 million euros ($47 million) to help countries of Africa’s Sahel region prepare to face jihadist attacks similar to those that killed dozens in Paris in 2015, an interior ministry official said on Friday.

The Sahel, a politically fragile region whose remote desert spaces host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable to further attacks after strikes on soft targets in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast earlier this year.

Nearby Senegal, a Western security partner with a long history of stability, has so far been spared.

“In future we will train all the countries of the G5 Sahel and Senegal with 42 million Euros in financing, including 24 million Euros for equipment,” said a spokeswoman for Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during his visit to Dakar on Friday.

G5 Sahel is a regional security organisation composed of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. The investment period is 2017-2022, the spokeswoman added.

French riot control officers from the CRS are currently in Senegal for a month training Senegalese police forces to combat urban attacks on soft targets ahead of the broader programme.

In the simulation exercise watched by Cazeneuve as well as army elites and foreign diplomats, Senegalese police arrived swiftly on the scene after masked jihadists killed three students before holing up with hostages inside a university bus.

The jihadists were killed and the remaining hostages released and given medical treatment in the drill.

“We have reinforced police cooperation so that the first ones on the scene, the specialized forces, can intervene in case of mass murder with a highly efficient response,” said Cazeneuve in a speech shortly after the demonstration.

Former colonial power France retains a military presence in Senegal with 350 soldiers. A much larger force of 3,500 is spread across Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to hunt down jihadists.

Senegal’s ally the United States has also boosted military cooperation with the country and this year signed a cooperation agreement to ease the deployment of American troops there.

 

Toronto Sufi community raises money to feed village in Burkina Faso

The Toronto Star – March 3, 2012

The 79 families who make up the Canadian Sufi Cultural Centre in Toronto are raising money to feed a village in Burkina Faso. As famine sweeps the semi-arid countries of West Africa — on the heels of last year’s devastating famine in Somalia — the Toronto Sufi families have paired with Irim, a village of 2,000 in Burkina Faso, a tiny, landlocked country of 17 million sandwiched between Ghana and Mali. They’ve vowed to feed them through the next six months.
Mark Schemeit is among those who are helping Yacouba Sawadogo and his extended family. The Canadian and the African met as teens through Canada World Youth — a federal international exchange — in 1995. Sawadogo came to Canada while Schemeit went to Burkina Faso and, later, occasionally sent money, though as a student he didn’t have a lot to give.

“Immigrant massacre” in Caserta stirs concern

Italy is dealing with a rise in immigrant anger this week after protests erupted against the violent attacks directed at African immigrants. At Caserta, located in the north of Naples, riots sparked after the Naples mafia was linked to the gang-related killing of six Africans – three Ghanians, two Liberians, and a Togolese. In Milan, thousands took to the streets to condemn the beating to death of a young man from Burkina Faso, who was caught stealing biscuits from a local bar. While the events are unrelated, they show an increasing divide between African descended Italian citizens and migrants, and other Italians, with underlying tensions of skin color and racist concerns. The cabinet of Silvio Berlusconi approved 500 troops to monitor Caserta, and remain in the area for thee months to safeguard the area.

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