N’Djamena (AFP) – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius began a tour of west African countries on Saturday to show France’s support for their battle against the extremist group Boko Haram.
Launched in Nigeria in 2009, Boko Haram fighters have recently spread their insurgency to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, which have now been drawn into the battle to stop the extremists.
On his first stop in Chad, Fabius met with the country’s president Idriss Deby Itno, who has sent Chadian forces to Cameroon, and this month also deployed Chad’s army directly into Nigeria for the first time to fight the extremist insurgents.
“Chad has done the most to assure stability in a region that unfortunately is unstable,” Fabius said, adding that Boko Haram poses “an extremely heavy economic risk for Chad.”
With Chad being a landlocked country, Fabius said it was very important that the vital route remain open between N’Djamena and the Cameroonian port of Douala, which has come under attack by the extremists.
He added, however, that France did not envision any direct intervention in its former colonies, saying France can provide tactical support and “coordination among the countries” as well as intelligence information.
Fabius’ trip to the region, which will also include Cameroon and Niger, is also aimed at raising international funds to battle Boko Haram’s spreading insurgency.
Nigeria and its neighbours reached an agreement earlier this month to deploy a multi-national force of some 8,700 soldiers to fight the extremists in the region around Lake Chad.