French PM urges joint stand to drive back extremists in Sahel

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Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali, on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe leaves a British army "Chinook" helicopter during a visit at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
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French PM urges joint stand to drive back extremists in Sahel

  • France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad

GAO, Mali: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Sunday urged partners to commit to stand with Paris in driving back jihadi violence in the Sahel.
“We require everyone’s commitment to progress toward durable stabilization. Nobody can boast of being able to do without the backing of others,” Philippe said, citing a Malian proverb at his troop’s headquarters at Gao.
He was speaking days after the African Union’s peace and security chief Smail Chergui urged member states to tackle the root causes of extremism in the Sahel region.
France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.
But Chergui voiced disappointment in difficulties faced in financing and equipping the force at a time when the future of the current UN mission MINUSMA is uncertain.
The Islamist revolt in the Sahel took off after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011. Militant attacks erupted in northern Mali as Boko Haram emerged in northern Nigeria.
Large areas of Mail remain out of contril, and the extremists have gained ground in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, while Chad is battling unrest on its borders.
“It is the action of all, with (French-led anti-insurgent Operation) Barkhane, alongside Malian forces, which will drive back jihadism,” said Philippe, who arrived in Mali late Friday for a two-day visit.
On Sunday he addressed French, Malian, British and Estonian forces saying he wanted to salute the troops’ “remarkable and decisive” results to date, including the recently announced deaths of extremist leaders Amadou Koufa and, last Thursday, Algerian Djamel Okacha, alias Yahya Abou El Hamame.
“Every day our enemies are suffering important losses, reducing their capacity to cause trouble,” said Philippe, though he conceded the threat has not disappeared.
Saturday he said 2,700 French forces in the region since 2014 “will remain as long as is necessary.”
While in Gao, Philippe, accompanied by Defense Minister Florence Parly, visited a monument to 24 French soldiers who have died in Mali to date.


Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine elections after incumbent president Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat

Updated 21 April 2019
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Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine elections after incumbent president Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat

  • Petro Poroshenko tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag and national identity
  • Zelenskiy is a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies

KIEV: Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday conceded he had been soundly defeated in a run-off vote by comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy and would be leaving office next month, but said he did not plan to quit politics altogether.

Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Sunday after an exit poll showed Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies, had easily won enough votes to become the next president of a country at war.

The apparent landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko who tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag by casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

Poroshenko said the results were "clear" and a reason to "call my opponent and congratulate him", after exit polls showed the performer taking 73 percent of the vote.

"I will leave office but I want to firmly stress -- I will not quit politics," he added.