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Macron in Chad for Christmas dinner with Barkhane troops

President Macron spent last Christmas with French troops in Niamey, 22 December 2017.
President Macron spent last Christmas with French troops in Niamey, 22 December 2017. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron is to spend the weekend in N’Djamena, Chad to celebrate part of the festive period with troops serving as part of the Barkhane force, and to meet Chadian President Idriss Deby.

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Macron is expected to spend Saturday on the N’Djamena military base with some 1,000 French soldiers and share pre-Christmas dinner with them, according to the AFP news agency. The food will be prepared by Guillaume Gomez, the Elysée Palace’s chef.

Elysée Chef Gomez tweeted photos of provisions for shipment to Chad for Christmas dinner.

The French president also spent last year with some 500 members of the Barkhane force based in Niamey, Niger. Some see this trip as further underlining the strategic importance for France of the Sahel-Sahara region notably in terms of diplomacy, security and migration.

Macron, along with French Defence Minister Florence Parly, is expected to meet Barkhane force commander General Frédéric Blachon, AFP reported.

The French government’s objective is to strengthen its partnership with the new anti-jihadist force of the G5 Sahel supported by Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Barkhane boasts some 4,500 French soldiers. It was launched in 2014 aiming to fight back armed groups in the region.

Jihadist groups have been largely chased out of northern Mali by the French military intervention, however they have regained territory in central Mali.

Security overriding development

Some NGOs have been critical of the French government’s overriding focus on security and lack of engagement in terms of development.

“Securing is not developing,” said Robin Guittard, spokesperson for Oxfam France. “There are significant needs in terms of security in Chad as well as in the rest of the region, but development aid must first and foremost respond to the needs of the people and not the security objectives of governments.”

Macron met Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in Paris on Monday. The French president assured Kaboré that France would remain engaged in the Sahel “until the victory is complete”.

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