France’s military involvement in the Sahel is encountering growing opposition in the region, with protests in Sahel that were once isolated to urban centres spreading to rural areas, fanned by social media and anger at insecurity.
Protesters in Burkina Faso and Niger in November hampered a large French military supply convoy travelling from Ivory Coast to Mali.
The trucks, escorted by local forces, took more than a week to get through Burkina Faso, and several people were injured during demonstrations in the northern town of Kaya. In western Niger, two people were killed in unclear circumstances on Saturday when the convoy attempted to escape protesters.
Senegal’s Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall on Sunday said she hoped China would lend support in the fight against insecurity in the conflict-ridden Sahel region at the start of a China-Africa summit.
French military facing growing protests in Sahel
France’s military has opened an investigation. Experts say the affair appears to show that anti-French sentiment has spread in the Sahel, although the reasons for it are complex.
France, the former colonial power in the Sahel, has about 5,100 troops deployed across the region, helping to support countries where governments are weak and the armed forces poorly equipped.
The French military first intervened in 2013 to beat back an extremist insurgency in northern Mali. But the rebels regrouped and two years later spilt over into Burkina Faso and Niger, two of the poorest countries in the world.
Village massacres, roadside bombs and ambushes have claimed thousands of lives and more than a million people have fled their homes.
The insurgency shows no signs of slowing. On Sunday, four Burkinabe soldiers were killed in the north of the country, bringing the toll from two weeks of raids by suspected extremists to at least 80.