France in the Sahel: a case of the reluctant multilateralist?

France is presenting its current involvement in the Sahel as a new, and more multilateral, form of intervention.

But is it? Does it mark a clean break with France’s early postcolonial past, characterised by unilateral intervention practices? Or does it, thanks to a process called ‘layering’, superimpose and meld together old unilateral intervention practices with the ‘newer’ multilateral approach?

In looking for answers to these questions, we are reminded of the quotation by management consultant Peter Drucker, namely that

If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old.

This observation seems to be the key to understanding the novelty or otherwise of France’s actions in the Sahel. Thus, before searching for the ‘new’, we need to look back and identify the ‘old’.

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Tony Chafer: Professor of African and French Studies, University of Portsmouth

Gordon D. Cumming: Professor of Foreign and Development Policies, Cardiff University