Political leaders from the EU, African Union and international donors gathered in Brussels on February 23 to mobilise support for Africa’s war-torn Sahel region.
The high-level meeting resulted in €414 million being pledged to support the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel Joint Force – a military partnership between Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad designed to fight terrorism and organised crime in the region.
Speaking at a press-conference at the European Commission headquarters, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou warned that the Sahel taskforce is under severe financial strain and may soon face a liquidity shortage if its Western partners fail to find long-term solution for its funding.
The Sahel region – a semi-arid stretch of land that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and further east to Eritrea – has long been a base of Islamic extrimist groups. In the last few years the region’s problems have been exacerbated by severe drought and the worsening military conflict in Libya.
Many of the region’s residents have become part of the uncontrolled flow of migrants that have flooded into Europe via the Mediterranean since the summer of 2015.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini admitted at a press conference following the summit that the security challenges of the Sahel taskforce go well-beyond the group’s capacity to deal with them on their and urged international donors to deepen their support for the G5.
“The impact of the lack of security caused by the presence of criminal groups, traffickers of drugs and humans, and terrorists in the region has been felt as far away as in Europe and beyond. We need to work together with the neighbouring countries to articulate a strategy that will sufficiently respond to the challenges that the region faces,” said Mogherini.
Belgium, France, and Germany have provided significant financial and security assistance to the Sahel region and the G5 Security forces. Paris has long taken a lead role, having deployed more than 4,000 crack troops and hi-tech military equipment to the region as part of its pan-regional Operation Barkhane anti-terror mission. The three EU stalwarts view the region as a potential threat to their own security and a source of radical terrorism.
After its creation in 2014, with the support of the UN, the funding and operational capacity of the G5 Sahel Joint Force remains unclear as it remains heavily dependent on international support.
Friday’s new pledge of more than €400 million is seen as a significant step in the right direction as it received expanded strong backing from the US and Gulf states – both seen as major players in determining the security situation in Africa.