French Troop Exit: Impact on Africa’s French Army Presence


In the Sahel, the French military presence is reduced to nothing. The French troops will leave Niger by the end of 2023, Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday evening. Once again, the army is packing up without having succeeded in eradicating the terrorist threat from the region. In this strip of the Sahel, only Chad remains, which still houses French soldiers. However, France is present in other African countries.

It is mainly in its former colonies that France has a military presence. And for good reason, Paris “signed cultural, technical and military cooperation agreements and defense agreements with most of its former colonies at the time of independence in 1960,” Tony Chafer, professor of studies, explains to the BBC. African and French at the Research Center for European and International Studies at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. Today, these missions depend on the host country.

A military presence in the Sahel reduced in Chad
After Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, the 1,500 French soldiers will leave Niger by the end of the year. On the website of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, it is still written that “the French armies remain committed to their African partners in the fight against armed terrorist groups” and that “this French military system is co-constructed with our regional partners and constantly adapts to their needs and wishes. »

But Niger was one of the last countries where France continued the anti-jihadist fight. Niamey was an effective and geographically strategic shield for jihadist groups, especially the Islamic State. From now on, only Chad remains where a thousand French soldiers are stationed to continue this mission.

Protection of businesses in Gabon

The country fell into political instability after a coup d’état on the morning of August 30 to “put an end to the regime in place”. Unlike the Sahel countries, the coup authorities in Gabon have not called for the departure of France, which is nevertheless present with some 350 soldiers. There are notably present members of the 6th Marine Infantry Battalion, which carries out company protection missions, according to Libération which assures that “the Camp de Gaulle base, formerly Camp des Armes, in Libreville represents one of the strongholds of the French military presence in Africa.

The following missions are also required of the French contingent: the fight against terrorist groups, control of land borders and maritime approaches, peacekeeping operations (PKO), intelligence, logistics, etc. The French army has also become “a machine for producing military training” according to Brigadier General François-Xavier Mabin, commanding the French elements in Gabon, interviewed by Les Echos de l’eco in August 2022.

Djibouti, one of France’s strategic priorities

This is where we have the contingent “the largest French presence forces in Africa”, according to the website of the Ministry of Defense, which describes the region as “one of France’s strategic priorities. » In 2011, France and Djibouti signed a “defense cooperation treaty”, giving birth to these French Forces stationed in Djibouti (FFDj).

Their mission is to “support operations in the area”, provide “an airport logistics support point for French forces”, form “a reservoir of seasoned, acclimatized and trained forces that can be rapidly deployed in the event of a crisis in the sub-region » and ensure “a military presence” capable of ensuring the protection of nationals on site. According to L’Express, it is also a special forces training location.

Some 900 soldiers in Ivory Coast

The FFCI or French Forces in Ivory Coast “constitute a major strategic, operational and logistical platform on the West African coast,” explains the ministry website. It is therefore one of the two French advanced operational bases (BOA) in Africa, installed thanks to the partnership that emanates from the agreement sealed in 2012 between the two countries. This presence ensures an operational relay but also forms a reservoir of forces “quickly projectable in the event of a crisis”.

In Senegal, an “operational cooperation hub”

Here again, the 400 French soldiers provide training for soldiers from the different countries in the region. The Senegal base is even the “operational cooperation center with a regional vocation”, according to the website of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. “As part of a preventive posture, the French elements in Senegal (EFS) remain a point of support materialized by the existence of a key core of joint command post (PCIA) and naval and aeronautical ports of call” , develops the ministry.

“The French military presence in Africa has also always allowed France to be at the heart of conflict resolution and management mechanisms in French-speaking Africa, particularly at the UN Security Council,” Bruno Charbonneau explains to the BBC. , full professor at the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean.

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