France G5 Sahel Summit in BAMAKO PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ahmedou Ould - Abdallah, President,   
Friday, 30 June 2017 00:02

The Summit of the heads of state of the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) and the new French president to be held in Bamako on Sunday (July 2nd), will indeed address the fight against terrorism in the region. Beyond that, it will also be a life-size test of future relations between France and the French-speaking African countries.



Obviously, this summit will be essentially devoted to the fight against terrorism. However, it is not certain that the parties will give the same priority to this common objective.


Quick success and back home.


Concerned by the economic and therefore political recovery of France so that it regains its place in Europe and in the world, President Macron seeks a solution that avoids the stalemate of the "Barkhane" force in the Sahel. He has the right approach: one fights to win.


He knows that the nature of the threat is constantly changing and thus the response calls for a wider and longer military commitment. He also knows that this commitment needs broad diplomatic support and calls for a lot of time and human as well as financial resources. Remaining in the field for a long time is to expose the life and prestige of 4,000 soldiers of Operation "Barkhane" which cost 500 million euros a year. Waiting for a failure is not an option.


While familiar with the external operations of its army, today French public opinion demands rapid success or the return of the soldiers to the country. Everything but a stall.


A compromise is essential between the long-term objectives - stability and democratization of the Sahel - and the short-term constraints linked to the demands of the national public opinion. In this context, and despite successes linked to its great mobility, the withdrawal of "Barkhane" and international troops cannot be ruled out, including in the medium term.


Concerned about the consolidation, even the perpetuation of their power, France Sahelian partners are indeed opposed to terrorism. As were their elders to the communist threat during the Cold War. But these two periods are structurally different. The current world is more "fluid", the threat, although serious, is not nuclear and information is difficult to limit.


It is therefore essential that the leaders of the Sahel agree to seriously address all threats to peace, including those that feed the soil on which terrorism takes roots and grows. Terrorism does not arise ex nihilo but after a slow maturation on a ground destroyed by the damage of States bad management.


Partnership and franchise


Demanding better governance, more distance from public money and therefore less corruption, but more social inclusion, better professionalization and lesser tribalized security forces, measures to promote good borders policies will all contribute to fighting better violent extremism.


Putting these points on the Agenda of friends' Summit is not interference in States internal affairs. Having reorganized his first government by ousting strong political allies to avoid any ambiguity as to his determination to promote transparency, President Macron is in a good position to talk of good management with his peers in Bamako.


The persistence of misunderstandings and misreading between African and French partners weakens the common front of their fight against violent extremism. It also contributes to accelerating the dysfunctions of States and further weakens their capacity to fight radical movements. Finally, it expands and strengthens, throughout the Sahel, the base of recruitment of jihadists and their operational capacities.


In the face of current security challenges, the relationship between France and its African friends must be managed wisely and lucidly for the benefit of all. In this respect, the conditions are met to overcome the past recriminations and work in partnership, that is to say frankly.


At the request of Paris, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2359 (2017) on 20 June, endorsing the deployment of a force of 5,000 men. This force, to be supplied by the G 5 Sahel states, will be added to the national troops, those of the Minusma (12,000 men), the French forces of "Barkhane" and other special forces, particularly from Germany and the USA.


According to well-informed circles, the United States, which covers between 28% to 32% of the budget of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are not expected to contribute financially to the planned force. The 50 million announced by the EU will be used to help start the operation.

However, with its excellent knowledge of the UN mechanisms, French diplomacy will surely find a satisfactory outcome. However, the solution will not be only military.


Institutional vacuum


In a world where citizens are connected and instantly informed, ignoring the popular demand for a better management of African economies and political rights, encourages and fuels extremism. President Macron cannot fail to remind all of these  simple facts.


These situations delegitimize and discredit governments and their effectiveness on the ground. As institutions are frequently broken down and states are increasingly absent from the lives of citizens, incivic behaviours are rapidly gaining ground throughout the Sahel. As a result, institutional vacuum paves the way for everything that discredit and weakens the central governments: nepotism, tribalism, various traffics and indeed radicalism. Violence and anarchy are becoming structural, including in the capitals cities. The radicals occupy and exploit the spaces thus left vacant.


Today, one of the biggest threats to the Sahel is the slow deconstruction of post-colonial states. Their advanced retribalisation makes it difficult to find a military solution. On the contrary, it invites to social dialogue and the formation of major political coalitions or national unity governments to restore confidence and to better manage crises.


When it was established in 2011, the Center for Security Strategies in the Sahel-Sahara (Center 4S) had set a goal, which is still valid: "The Center will work to keep this region a player in its future rather than a matter of concern or a source of instability for the international community."


This wish should be reaffirmed at the end of the Bamako Summit.


Last Updated ( Friday, 30 June 2017 00:13 )

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