News / Africa

French Military Operations in Africa Unpopular at Home

A French soldier waves through traffic as he mans a roadblock in the Miskine neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 6, 2014.
A French soldier waves through traffic as he mans a roadblock in the Miskine neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 6, 2014.
Lisa Bryant
France marks the one year anniversary this month of its military offensive in Mali by further drawing down its forces, following a relatively swift and clear cut intervention. But fresh violence this week in the Central African Republic (CAR), where another French operation enters its second month, underscores the challenges ahead.

It is not quite "mission accomplished," but French President Francois Hollande says most of France's intervention in Mali is over.

Speaking earlier this month, Hollande said only 1,600 French forces will remain in the West African country as of mid-February, compared to about 2,500 today. There will be a further drawdown to about 1,000 men. That is the number he says is needed to deal with future threats.

But France's other operation in the Central African Republic is starkly different - although Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has vowed it will be short. There, 1,600 French troops are helping to disarm fighters and restore stability. But despite the departure of Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia and plans for a new transitional government, it is proving to be a messy job.

And a very unpopular one - at least back home.  A new poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion indicates six-out-of-10 French are against the intervention in CAR.

Even at the start, says IFOP's director of public opinion studies, Jerome Fourquet, only half of those surveyed supported Operation Sangaris.

Fourquet says in France, like in the United States, there's usually a sort of 'rally around the flag' effect - a sense of patriotism and support for troops at the start of an operation. But he says the French were lukewarm about intervening in CAR from the beginning.

FILE - A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirts of Diabaly, Mali, Jan. 21, 2013.FILE - A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirts of Diabaly, Mali, Jan. 21, 2013.
x
FILE - A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirts of Diabaly, Mali, Jan. 21, 2013.
FILE - A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirts of Diabaly, Mali, Jan. 21, 2013.
That was not the case in Mali. French troops - and later President Hollande - were greeted by cheering crowds. Polls found a hefty majority of French supported the Serval operation there.

Fourquet said France's goals in Mali - to drive out Islamist radicals - appeared relatively clear. And French forces produced very visible and rapid results. But in CAR, he says, the peacekeeping mission is difficult to put in place. And the ongoing violence reinforces negative views here that the operation is useless and dangerous.

Fourquet says there are other issues feeding French public opinion. People feel the government should take care of French needs first.

Fourquet says France has already intervened in CAR before. Today, he says, many French are wondering what the point is. Especially given the high unemployment and public spending cuts back home.

Those criticisms are echoed by far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen says she supported the intervention in Mali, because the Malians asked France to step in. But how many times, she asks, should France be intervening in Africa? Especially since cuts in the defense budget risk putting French soldiers in danger. That is the case, she says, when it comes to CAR.

Other opposition politicians say France cannot do it alone. European and other international allies must do more to help. They may get their wish next week, when European Union foreign ministers are expected to endorse a plan for a joint military operation in Central Africa.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jhanhart from: Germany
January 14, 2014 3:54 PM
Only to do nothing is useless and if you do something it's always dangerous.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs