By Didier Ndengue, US Africa News. Updated 2016-04-26
Budget deficits and strengthening the Barkhane device explain the reduction of the French army military operation via the port of Douala.
On March 30, 2016, French Defense Minister Jean- Yves Le Drian announced the withdrawal of Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic (CAR). The French military mission had been designed to protect civilians from attacks perpetrated by terrorist militias. Minister Le Drian did not elaborate on the full reasons for the withdrawal during the inauguration ceremony of Faustin Archange Touadera, President-Elect of CAR, as the CAR has not fully emerged from the civil war begun in 2013. The French force had been stationed in CAR since August 2014, in accordance with resolution 2127 of the UN Security Council, and at the request of the Central African transitional authorities. In the wake of Le Drian’s statement, the French Embassy in Cameroon stated that as of April 5, 2016, military equipment from CAR’s Operation Sangaris will be routed via Douala, Cameroon.
A press release from the embassy France received by our staff announced that: “The gradual return of peace and stability in CAR, and the effective deployment of MINUSCA [the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] permit the beginning of disengagement of the French forces in Operation Sangaris, as announced last March 30 by the Minister of Defense of the French Republic, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new President-Elect of the Central African Republic.” According to an article published on the website of the French Ministry of Defense, sixteen armored vehicles for infantry combat (VBCI) were conveyed by Ukrainian Ilyushin aircraft to Air Base 201 in Douala “where they will be taken by ship to France”.
French army top staff reiterated that the return of peace and the end of the electoral process in CAR are at the core of the withdrawal of Operation Sangaris. However, on page 4 of Issue N°727 (April 6, 2016) of the confidential bimonthly La Lettre du Continent (LC), the normalization of the political situation in the Central highlighted by the French authorities is only part of the root causes given for the drawdown of the French force. “This decision allows us to limit budget deficits while strengthening Operation Barkhane [France’s ongoing anti-insurgent operation in the Sahel],” writes the LC journalist. The withdrawal from the Central African theatre is also intended to “relocate” between 200 and 300 French soldiers to MINUSCA, or to European Union training programs. “In addition to the desire not to increase deficits in External Operations (OPEX), whose cost has elevated to over a billion euros per year, this strategy permits France, according to the General Staff, to continue to weigh in on activities in Central Africa without disbursing a single euro in the coming months,” we read in the LC, which also affirms that a movement of logistical resources from Operation Sangaris to Barkhane has been planned. We learn additionally that the resources for the operations against terrorism in the Sahel are currently insufficient. This movement, according to our source, would also prove necessary from the prospect of an intervention in Libya.