President Muhammadu Buhari will seek support for his battle against Boko Haram on a trip to Paris that starts Monday, more than three months after he took charge of Africa’s largest economy. The 72-year-old former military ruler will spend three days in Paris, during which he will hold talks with his French counterpart Francois Hollande and other ministers on defence, security, trade and investment in his oil-rich country.
Buhari has made defeating Boko Haram a priority since he came to power in May, after six years of bloodshed that has left at least 15,000 dead and made more than two million others homeless. Anglophone Nigeria is in a coalition with Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin, and overcoming historically suspicious ties with its French-speaking neighbours is seen as key to defeating the Islamist militants.
France has a strong military presence in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, for operations against jihadists in the Sahel region, and last month Hollande proposed to host an international meeting on tackling Boko Haram. While Boko Haram has lost territory it once controlled in northeastern Nigeria, it has nevertheless stepped up deadly ambushes in its traditional heartland and across the border in Cameroon and Chad.
“France’s assistance to Nigeria against Boko Haram focuses mainly on intelligence operations,” said a source close to Hollande, adding Paris conducts surveillance flights over Nigeria “at the request of the Nigerians.” “We’re going to talk about all this, see if there are any additional needs.” Buhari meets Hollande on Monday evening for talks, followed by a press conference and a working dinner.