France offers to help Benin, Gulf of Guinea states battle militants
French soldiers

Adebayo Obajemu

Emmanuel Macron’s government has said France is ready to “respond positively” to requests from Benin and other countries for air support and intelligence to fight Islamist militants, a French official said on Wednesday, as President Emmanuel Macron arrived in the West African state.

The French President is currently on tour of Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau with a view to strengthening political and security ties with countries in West and Central Africa.

For close to half a decade, Benin, together with the Gulf of Guinea states of Togo and Ivory Coast, has witnessed increasing attacks from militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State as violence spreads south from the Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Benin and Togo have been the butts of deadly attacks in recent months as France has withdrawn thousands of troops from Mali following the junta request.

Speaking in Cameroon on Tuesday, Macron said France would help Sahel countries such as Niger, where French troops will be based, and will “expand counter-insurgency operations to Gulf of Guinea countries that are now dealing with terrorist groups who are spreading and threatening the whole region”.

The core of the new strategy is to help the countries strengthen their armies, provide support and allow them to take the lead in operations on the ground. Countries that request it could have French troops on the ground.

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