France in Mali: towards a new Africa strategy?

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Abstract

This article addresses the question whether the French military intervention in Mali in 2013 (Operation Serval) and the follow-up Operation Barkhane are evidence of a new French military strategy in Africa. The first part briefly sets out the chronology of events that led to the French intervention. The decision-making process in Paris that led to the decision to intervene and the sequence of events following the intervention is then examined, in order to show that this raised important questions about the viability of the key principles – partnership, ‘Africanization’ and ‘Europeanization’ – that informed and underpinned France’s Africa policy from the late 1990s. It is argued that Operation Serval and the follow-on operation, Barkhane, need to be understood, first, in the context of the importance attached to Africa as a privileged arena for the projection of French power overseas. Second, they must be understood in the geopolitical context of the neo-liberal post-Cold War international order, within which France, as a major western power and permanent member of the UNSC, feels it has a responsibility to undertake certain actions. Third, they should also be understood against the background of the failure to reform the institutional architecture of Africa policy-making, in particular the roles of the Ministry of Defence and the ‘Africa cell’ at the Elysée Palace, which have traditionally played a pivotal role in Africa policy. Finally, the article argues that a new Africa strategy did emerge under President Hollande, albeit in an unplanned and incremental manner, but that the resulting policy is some distance from representing a renovated, or ‘normalized’, Africa policy based on a new partnership with Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-141
JournalInternational Journal of Francophone Studies
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • France
  • military policy
  • security
  • peace peacekeeping
  • Mali
  • Africa policy

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