Global Policy Forum

France Is Increasing Security at Sites in Niger and at Home


Following its military intervention in Mali, France has sent special military forces and equipment to help protect sites of uranium production in Niger. France currently gets three quarters of its total electricity from nuclear reactors fueled largely by Nigerien uranium. The largest French nuclear company operating in Niger, Areva, was already targeted in September 2010. Seven workers were kidnapped on one of its sites, and four French citizens are held hostage in the region. Following France’s engagement in Mali, French President François Hollande has tightened security in Niger and at home. French soldiers and police are patrolling government buildings, subways, and main streets around Paris.

By Steven Erlanger

New York Times
January 24, 2013

France gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, and much of the uranium used for fuel is mined in Niger by Areva, the French nuclear company.

But with French forces now in the forefront of fighting Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali and Islamist Web sites full of new threats against France, Paris is sending special forces and more equipment to help protect Areva’s production sites at Arlit and Imouraren in Niger, according to the magazine Le Point, which first reported the news.

In September 2010, seven workers for Areva and a construction company, Vinci, including five French citizens, a person from Togo and another from Madagascar, were kidnapped in Arlit by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Three, including a Frenchwoman who was ill, were released in February 2011 after negotiations, but four French citizens are still being held.

France has enhanced security at home as well, where the Mali engagement was quickly followed by a ramping up of the police and army presence at government buildings, prominent tourist sites, and subway and railway stations. Armed French soldiers in uniform are patrolling inside the subway, riding trains and watching main streets like the Champs-Élysées.

Security has also been tightened around President François Hollande, a Socialist who came into office last May vowing to reduce the symbolism of an imperial presidency. For instance, he gave up the large presidential Citroën C6 for a smaller Citroën DS5 diesel hybrid. But now he is again riding in a C6, an armored one, which officials say was already part of the presidential fleet and not a new purchase.

Mr. Hollande also made a point of trying to open revered spaces to the public, announcing that beginning in October, the beautiful gardens of the Élysée, the presidential palace, would be open to the public on the last Sunday of every month. But on Wednesday the government said that because of the new security situation, the gardens would not be open this Sunday. It did not say when they would be reopened.


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