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French army interventions in Africa

Here is a snapshot of major French military interventions in Africa since decolonisation in the 1960s, after the announcement Monday that France had completed its pullout from Mali. In all, France has deployed forces to Africa more than three dozen times. These interventions have overwhelmingly concerned former French colonies, either in a solo capacity in the declared aim of protecting civilians, under bilateral defence agreements or in joint operations alongside African, Western or UN troops. – Sahel – In 2013, France launched Operation Serval to drive out jihadist groups who had joined a regional insurrection in northern Mali the previous year. Serval was replaced in 2014 by a wider anti-jihadist mission, Operation Barkhane, in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. At its peak Barkhane had 5,100 personnel in the Sahel. But last year France fell out with Mali’s ruling junta after it forged closer ties with the Kremlin. In February, President Emmanuel Macron declared France would withdraw from Mali and Barkhane’s mission would be reconfigured. Around 2,500 French personnel will now remain in the Sahel, more than a thousand of them in Niger, mainly providing air support, the French military says. They will play a support role, helping local armed forces fight jihadists rather than act in their place, it says. – Central African Republic (CAR) – In 1979 France staged Operation Barracuda during which Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, at the time in Libya, was overthrown by French paratroopers. In 1996-1997 the country was rocked by three successive mutinies. France launched Operation Almandin to provide security for foreigners and evacuate 1,600 people. In 2006 and 2007 Paris intervened to support CAR troops fighting rebels in the northeast. In 2013, after the ouster of president Francois Bozize, a bloody civil conflict erupted along sectarian lines. France was given a UN go-ahead to send more than 1,000 troops to stabilise CAR. The operation, named Sangaris, was wound up in October 2016 after elections. – Libya – In 2011, within the NATO framework, France launched Operation Harmattan alongside Britain and the US to protect civilians against the forces of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Up to 4,200 French soldiers, 40 planes, some 20 choppers and 27 French ships were involved. Seven months of airstrikes led to the fall of the regime. – Ivory Coast – In 2002, France launched Operation Licorne (Unicorn) to protect foreigners after the country plunged into unrest. Licorne was reconfigured as a rapid reaction force in support of a UN mission. In 2011, French troops played a key role in forcing out President Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara in elections the previous year sparked a conflict that claimed several thousand lives. – Chad – From 1968-1972, French troops helped the government fight rebels in the northern Tibesti region. In 1983 France launched another supportive operation, Manta, at the request of President Hissein Habre after a Libyan incursion. – Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) – In 1978, at the request of the Kinshasa government, 600 French and 1,000 Belgian paratroopers landed on Kolwezi to rescue 2,700 European expatriates from rebels in Shaba. In 2003 an EU peacekeeping force under French command, called Artemis, quelled a long-running feud between the Lendu and Hema communities which claimed tens of thousands of lives in the east of the country. – Comoros – French troops intervened in the Indian Ocean archipelago in 1989 after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah, in a coup led by the notorious French mercenary Bob Denard. In 1995 France’s Operation Azalee foiled another coup led by Denard. – Rwanda – Under Operation Noroit from 1990 to 1993, France sent up to 600 troops to northwestern Rwanda following an offensive by Ugandan-based rebels from the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), now in power. In 1994, some 500 French paratroopers evacuated more than 1,000 French citizens and foreigners after the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana and the start of the genocide which left some 800,000 dead, mostly Tutsis. From June to August 1994 France carried out Operation Turquoise, a military operation with humanitarian aims.

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