The World Today for July 06, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

WEST AFRICA

The Hardest Word

President Emmanuel Macron recently apologized for his country’s role in the massacre of thousands of Rwandans in the 1990s when Paris supported the African country’s murderous regime. “In ignoring the warnings of the most clear-sighted observers…France bore damning responsibility in a chain of events that led to the worst,” he said, asking for forgiveness, according to the Economist.

The mea culpa underscores France’s attempted reset in Africa.

More concretely, Macron is also pulling back on France’s military presence on the continent, especially in Mali and surrounding nations where the former colonial power has long dispatched troops in the name of stability, the Washington Post reported. In recent years, French, as well as American and other Western troops, have been fighting militants affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Writing in the Conversation, King’s College London doctoral candidate Folahanmi Aina saw the pullout as a chance to develop new ways to assist the region. If France and others could help develop good governance in the region – functional executive and legislative branches, courts and other institutions, for instance – then they could break the cycle that leads to violence, he argued.

But others see a disaster in the making as weak governments face off against Islamist militants. Macron is eyeing the withdrawal of more than 5,000 troops from Mali and the region. That followed the dismay over a recent coup he suggested could result in new leaders with Islamist views, Voice of America reported.

Meanwhile, nearby Burkina Faso has already seen villages descend into lawlessness when the French troops depart, Al Jazeera noted. The situation is so dire that thousands hit the streets in protest over the weekend, demanding the government step up, Africanews reported.

Such fears are one reason that American officials have not been quick to support French efforts to expand United Nations forces in the region to replace departing French soldiers, Foreign Policy magazine wrote.

Still, Macron is answering the demands of the French public, which is sick of the country’s overseas adventures. The war against terror has created tensions in secular France, too.

France is among the most hated countries among radical Islamists, VICE News wrote. Islamist terror attacks have killed scores in France while far-right French politicians cite the violence as evidence for stricter policies against non-French (read: Islamic) influences in society. The gulf, some say, is widening because of these policy moves. One notable exception is in the French military, the New York Times noted, where Muslim soldiers are well integrated.

Regardless, moves big and small will be necessary for France to turn the page on this episode in its history abroad, and the repercussions at home.

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