France has signed a new defence treaty with Mali, said to ensure long-term military ties with its former colony.
 
Last year, French forces came to the aid of Malian soldiers under attack from al-Qaeda linked fighters and Tuareg rebels in the nation's north.
 
Tuareg rebels are now holding peace talks with Mali's government.
 
But underscoring how France views the wider threat from hardline fighters, it has broadened its military presence across the Sahel region of northern Africa, working with Mali and also Mauritania, Burkino Faso and Chad.
 
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "France's desire is to have its forces better react in the fight against terrorism. That's why we are going to be engaged in operation Barkhane which will mean an integral regional effort by French forces."
 
But does it mark the start of an new era of co-operation, or are there echoes of past colonial control?
 
Presenter: Mike Hanna 
 
Guests:

Marie-Roger Biloa - an African affairs analyst and editor of Africa International magazine.
 
Baz Lecocq - a professor of African History at the University of Ghent in Belgium, and author of the book: 'Disputed Desert: Decolonisation, Competing Nationalisms and Tuareg Rebellions in Northern Mali'.
 
Alessandra Giuffrida - an anthropologist specialising in northern Mali and a Tuareg Political analyst.

Source: Al Jazeera