Taoiseach to meet with Irish troops in Mali marking start of week long visit to Africa
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet with Irish troops stationed in Mali today to mark the beginning of a week long visit to Africa.
The Taoiseach and Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe will meet with 20 Irish Defence Force members who are serving in Mali on the EU training mission.
The Irish personnel are engaged in training Malian forces in relation to counter explosives and international humanitarian law.
The EUTM in Mali, established in 2013, is designed to equip Malian forces to combat extremist threats in the area and restore the territorial integrity of the country.
Conflict emerged following a bid to create a separate state in the north of the country by rebel groups in 2012 and it is estimated by the EU some 400,000 people were forced to flee their homes as a result.
Mali is also one of the countries in the Saher region which is faced with a myriad of challenges including poverty, migration issues, frequent food and nutrition crises and conflict.
Violent extremism is also a major challenge in the region and as such the EU has been working to stabilise the region since 2011.
Mr Varadkar will also meet with the Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.
Later in the week the Fine Gael leader will travel to Ethiopia where he will visit projects funded by Irish Aid and meet with both the president and the prime minister.
He will also visit a UNHCR refugee camp for Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia.