France to reduce Military presence in West, Central Africa

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France is planning to reduce its military presence in West and Central Africa to around 600 troops in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to limit the French military footprint in the region, three sources told AFP.

In February 2023, Macron announced a “noticeable reduction” of French troop presence in Africa, as anti-French sentiment is running high in some former colonies and countries like Russia are vying for greater influence.

According to a plan under discussion with African partners, France is planning to drastically reduce its so-called “pre-positioned” forces in Africa.

According to two sources close to the government and a military source, France will keep only around 100 troops in Gabon in Central Africa, down from 350 today, and around 100 in Senegal, in West Africa, down from 350.

Paris plans to keep around 100 troops in Ivory Coast on the southern coast of West Africa, down from 600 troops today, and around 300 personnel in Chad in north-central Africa, down from 1,000 now.

The reduced presence could be periodically expanded based on the needs of local partners, the three sources said. Contacted by the AFP, the French General Staff declined to comment.

Until two years ago, in addition to around 1,600 forces pre-deployed in West Africa and Gabon, France had over 5,000 troops in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the Barkhane anti-jihadist operation.

But it has been gradually pushed out by the juntas that came to power in Mali in 2021, in Burkina Faso in 2022 and in Niger in 2023.

All three countries have now concluded security agreements with Russia, which has been seeking to expand its footprint on the continent.

Chad, ruled by Mahamat Idriss Deby, the son of Idriss Deby Itno, who was president for over 30 years, is the last Sahel country to host French soldiers.

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