Sahel countries negotiate with armed groups despite French opposition,

On 16 February, during a two-day summit of leaders from west Africa in N’Djamena, Chad, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared via video link from inside the gilded Elysée palace to give France’s view on the region’s rampant insurgency.

After addressing heads of state from Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, Macron, who recently increased the number of French troops in the Sahel to more than 5,000, told journalists the leaders had agreed that they could not negotiate with the commanders of two of the region’s most notorious armed groups. They ”are enemies,” he said, referring to Iyad Ag Ghali, the Tuareg leader of Ansar-ud Deen, and Amadou Koufa, the head of Katiba Macina, both Malians. ”In no way whatsoever are they discussion partners.”

He was reiterating a long-standing French position: ”no negotiation with terrorists”.

Three days later, however, Moctar Ouane, Mali’s interim prime minister, revealed that his government had created a body to lead talks with the militant groups, which have devastated areas in north and central Mali and elsewhere across the Sahel.

”More and more voices in Mali are calling for dialogue with our brothers who have joined radical groups,” he said. Läs artikel