West Africa: G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Sahel Alliance

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations’ Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, expresses his outrage and condemnation of the terrorist act on a bus in Sourou province, in the north of Burkina Faso, in which reportedly fourteen people were killed and nineteenth others were wounded when the bus carrying students ran over an improvised explosive device on Saturday morning, 04 January.

Paris — Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – face a number of challenges, including the growing threat of terrorism and organized crime, climate change and demographic growth.

These are leading causes of institutional fragility in the region. As shared challenges, they must be addressed from the political, military and development perspectives. The G5 Sahel was created by the region’s leaders as a way of taking their security into their own hands and encouraging regional development by coordinating their efforts.

The Sahel Alliance was created in 2017 to foster cooperation between major development partners and G5 countries. The Alliance’s 12 donors seek to speed up the implementation of development activities that respond directly to needs expressed by populations. France is one of the countries that support both of these exemplary initiatives.

G5 Sahel: a political initiative by Africa

The G5 Sahel, which is headquartered in Nouakchott, is an intergovernmental cooperation framework created on 16 February 2014 at the initiative of the Mauritanian Presidency of the African Union. It seeks to fight insecurity and support development with a view to opening up the region.

On 2 July 2017, G5 Sahel leaders officially launched the Cross-Border Joint Force in Bamako, pooling their resources to fight security threats in the Sahel region. The United Nations Security Council welcomed the creation of this Joint Force in Resolution 2359 of 21 June 2017, which was sponsored by France.

The Joint Force has been endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Committee and fights terrorism, cross-border organized crime and human trafficking in the G5 Sahel zone. It carried out its first operation in November 2017 with the armies of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

At full operational capability, the Joint Force will have 5,000 soldiers (seven battalions spread across three zones: West, Centre and East). It is active in a 50 km strip on either side of the countries’ shared borders. Later on, a counter-terrorism brigade is to be deployed to northern Mali.

The G5 Cross-Border Joint Force’s political momentum comes from the G5 Chair (taken over by Burkina Faso in 2019). Its strategic control is ensured by the G5 Sahel defence ministers meeting. Its operations target border areas in three zones: the West zone, which has its command post (CP) in Néma, Mauritania; the Centre zone, which has its CP in Niamey, Niger; and the East zone, which has its CP in N’Djamena, Chad. The CPs are coordinated from the Joint Force’s headquarters in Bamako.

The Joint Force has successfully carried out several operations, with others planned for 2019. It is intended to be flexible in order to adapt to the changing threat environment and intervention priorities. It does not replace but rather supplements the operations of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the mandate of which is to support the Malian authorities in stabilizing their country. The relationship between the Joint Force and MINUSMA is governed by Resolution 2391 of 8 December 2017, under which the latter provides operational and logistical support to the former.

Financial and material support for the G5 Sahel is progressing. The Sahel Coalition conference organized at France’s initiative in La Celle-Saint-Cloud on 13 December 2017 helped consolidate international support. It was followed by a donor conference for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, held in Brussels by the European Union, the African Union, the UN and the G5 Sahel on 23 February 2018.

Following these two events, which confirmed the international community’s commitment to the Sahel, financial contributions totalling €414 million were pledged. These sums are being used to train and equip the G5 Sahel Joint Force.

As part of its mandate to support the development and continuity of regional security activities, the G5 Sahel drew up a Priority Investment Programme (PIP) in 2014. This programme features 40 regional projects, for a total cost of €2.4 billion. Most PIP projects target Sahel border areas, and reflect the solidarity and cooperation between these countries, which have opted for a regional response to shared crises.

Many initiatives concern infrastructure projects to open up the region (through roads, bridges, air links and extended telephone coverage), facilitate access to resources (through agro-hydraulic projects and electrification) and improve governance (through the inclusion of women and support for justice). The programme also includes an emergency stabilization programme, which will be immediately rolled out in the most vulnerable areas.

On 6 December 2018, an international donor conference took place in Nouakchott to fund the PIP programme. France announced that it would contribute €220 million towards regional development, including €90 million for the emergency stabilization programme.
The Sahel Alliance: a donor coordination group working for the Sahel on a daily basis

Efforts made to ensure regional security will be ineffective unless they are accompanied by sustainable development.

To stabilize the region and prevent violent radicalization, it is crucial to create the conditions for economic development with the potential to generate jobs, especially given the growing number of young people.

This requires greater efforts to boost development in the region. At the initiative of France and Germany, the Sahel Alliance was launched in Paris on 13 July, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. It brings together the main multilateral and bilateral development partners of Sahel States.

The Alliance’s goal is to speed up aid deployment and ensure it is not spread too thinly, especially in the most vulnerable areas. The Alliance currently has 12 members: France, Germany, the European Union, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Finland. The United States, Norway and Finland are observers.

The Sahel Alliance is not a new structure or a financial advocacy forum. It is a mechanism for improving the coordination of partners so as to deliver faster, more effective and better targeted assistance to vulnerable areas. It has six key priorities: youth employability, education and training; agriculture, rural development and food security; energy and climate; governance; decentralization and support for rolling out basic services; and internal security.

The donors in the Sahel Alliance will fund more than 600 projects in the area, worth a total of more than €9 billion. France will play a key role in this effort, with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) financing more than €1.6 billion in projects – a 40% increase in its support for the Sahel over the 2018-2022 period.

On 30 October 2018, the G5 Sahel signed a partnership agreement with the Sahel Alliance. This agreement seeks to better coordinate donors’ support and the needs expressed by Sahel countries, in order to improve the effectiveness of development assistance in the region.

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