News / Africa

Sahel Attacks Prompt Fears in France Over Energy Supply

Sahel Attacks Prompt Fears in France Over Energy Supplyi
X
June 03, 2013 11:34 PM
Security is being stepped up at Western installations across Africa's Sahel region following twin attacks in Niger late last month by Islamist militants. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, fears are growing over the extent of the militants’ reach in a region with close links to Europe. The stakes are especially great for France, which is highly dependent on resources mined in its former colonies
Henry Ridgwell
Security is being stepped up at Western installations across Africa's Sahel region following twin attacks in Niger late last month by Islamist militants. Fears are growing over the extent of the militants’ reach in a region with close links to Europe.  The stakes are especially great for France, which is highly dependent on resources mined in its former colonies.

Since the 1970s, much of France’s energy supply has derived from the Sahel region of Africa.   So recent attacks on Western commercial interests there have big implications, says energy economist Malcolm Grimston of Imperial College London

“It [France] gets not far short of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power - that’s by far the highest proportion in the world.  It uses around 12,500 tons of uranium per year.  Not far short of a third of that comes from Niger already," said Grimston.

Last month Islamist suicide bombers staged twin attacks in Niger - targeting this army barracks in Agadez, and the French run Somair uranium mine in Arlit.  One staff member at the mine was killed and uranium production was halted.

The French firm Areva owns the Somair mine.  Its president visited Niger the day after the attack to reaffirm the company’s engagement in the country.  Areva is developing another site in Niger at Imouraren,  says Malcolm Grimston.

“Areva has invested something like 1.5 billion euros [almost $2 billion] in the new mine in Niger.  That is a very key area, and I think France will be very keen to maintain its long-term interest and its long-term security in that area," he said.

France has deployed Special Forces alongside Niger's army to protect the mines.

The May attacks follow the assault in January on a gas plant in Algeria. Thirty-nine foreign workers were killed by militants linked to al-Qaida. The plant has yet to reopen.

Fears that Western-run facilities in the Sahel present terror groups with easy targets are over-simplified, says Paul Melly of the London-based policy institute Chatham House.

“On the whole, the security risk is less one of fixed sites, and it's more one of generalized instability and the dangers to the survival of the stable constitutional states in West Africa and the normal process of economic development and political security," said Melly.

Melly says those concerns underpinned France’s military intervention to oust Islamist forces from northern Mali.

“For Europe, West Africa is a long-term fundamental strategic interest rather like Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are for the U.S.  It’s that kind of long term investment in partnership that really matters and that’s what underlay the decision to go so far as to send 4,000 troops into Mali," he said.

Analysts say despite the risks, the potential gains for foreign and host governments mean that energy companies are unlikely to suddenly withdraw from the Sahel.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid