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.

 

The orphans who didn’t need saving

The scandal involving French charity Zoe’s Ark is tangled in a web of good intentions gone awry. While the organization pointed to the paralysis of diplomacy in Darfur leaving thousands upon thousands of children displaced and without being in the care of a nuclear family, it turns out that none of the 103 children were orphans in the Western sense – and were removed by the French workers from their own community and familial networks. In addition, in Muslim countries like Chad and Sudan where family matters are goverened by Islamic law, Western concepts of adoption are essentially forbidden by religious edict.

Bewildered infants await fate in Chad orphanage

Members of the French charity Zoe’s Ark were detained as they were preparing to fly 103 children out of the Chadian city of Abeche. The plane’s crew, all Spanish citizens, are also being held by Chadian authorities. The children, largely from Sudan’s Darfur region, were intended to be smuggled to Europe by the charity workers – justified by the Geneva convention and international law, according to an update on the Zoe’s Ark website. The Chadian government is currently conducting investigations on the smuggling attempt.