Sahel Sahara: the challenges of 2018. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ahmedou Ould - Abdallah, President,   
Friday, 19 January 2018 17:04

Today, in the Sahel, the threats are more diverse, more numerous and have expanded to new areas, thus becoming deeply rooted. In addition to violent extremism, old risks/ threats remain while others are reappearing: irregular migrations, environmental deterioration, cybernetic crime, endemic corruption, and states retribalisation of states.




Classical and rather reactive, the regional and international responses to these threats have many merits though remaining modest compared to the coherent and robust intervention that saved Bamako in 2013.


 Therefore, today how to face these challenges?


‘’The tree will not hide the forest’’


Thanks to international cooperation, the G 5 Sahel has benefitted from diplomatic and financial contribution, gained international recognition as well as a forward planning capacity. Support has come in particular from France, Germany, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates as well as the United States on a bilateral basis for each member state. The meeting of the Group ministers of Defense, in Paris on January 15, 2018 is an illustration of that wider cooperation that is now strengthened by the United Kingdom decision to bring in military helicopters.


This first phase of ownership of the Group, by its five member states countries, is essential to the continued success of G 5 Sahel.


Concomitantly to the mobilization of these various external supports, the G 5 Sahel is strengthened by contributions – in funds and in troops - from its member states. That should help its restructuration. Therefore, its partnership policy should be cooperation and not a futile competition between its member states or, for that matter, with other countries.


If France's support will remain essential for a certain period of time, and in many areas, including diplomacy, the Group members should be prepared to assume their own autonomy in the long term.


In fact, while terrorism, due to its violent and spectacular nature, remains the biggest threat to states security, new and multiple dangers, constantly reinvigorated, appear in the region. Extremists and their allies are surfing on their multiplication and bolstering to legitimize and regularize armed violence. However, there are other threats.


Environmental risks - continued desertification, coastal erosion, and the exploitation of the few remaining viable forests and the plundering of fishing areas - must be taken very seriously by governments and international organizations.


Rapid urbanization can certainly offer economic opportunities and provide a basis for national integration. Fast growing and anarchic, it could, however, become a factor that accelerates the destabilization of traditional communities and provides candidates for all "opportunities or missions" that arise, starting with terrorism and irregular migration. "It is better to be eaten by the fish in the Mediterranean than consumed by worms in a tomb in the Sahel" say the young emigrants, disillusioned and stoic.


Finally, and as always, endemic corruption, and especially its impunity, explained or "justified" under the evocation of national sovereignty, reduces the credibility of national efforts to combat terrorism. One of corruption most perverse effects is the suspicion and discredit it casts on the actions of governments and on the effectiveness of international cooperation.1


In this chaotic context what is the immediate future of G 5 Sahel?


The G 5 Sahel and its membership.


Continuous mutations and the deep-seated threats raise the question of funding the response. The current international focus on the budget of the G 5 Sahel Force is therefore well justified. Naturally, this focus should not overshadow the seriousness of other unarmed threats and the importance of addressing them with lasting solutions.


In the short term, the priority is manageable at diplomatic level. That could be done at a reasonable cost. To remain credible and internationally attractive, the G 5 Sahel Secretariat, based in Nouakchott, needs strong support from its member states (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). In particular, support from the host country, Mauritania, is essential.

If Nouakchott has yet to offer the same services - education, health, connectivity and world-class services - as elsewhere, the generous support of the government to the G 5 Sahel Secretariat is essential to its acceptability by the local public opinion. This acceptability of the Group, by the host country, should make it better understood and appreciated by ordinary citizen. This support, including the "privileges and immunities" granted to international staff, may make it more attractive to the staff of the secretariat that work, live, educate and care for children far from home.


Politically, the credibility of the host country commitments to headquarters can be as important as troop deployment beyond national borders. That deployment may not be a priority if credible alternatives, to host country engagement, are presented to its regional and international partners.


Coherent group, consistent response.


Established in 2014, the G 5 Sahel, in addition to its member states commitment, still enjoys strong external backing. Obviously, these are not forever and, furthermore, their life span is limited and closely linked to the usefulness and performance of the Group. However, as one of the pillars of modern diplomacy, transparency is a source of credibility and effectiveness. A host country should reassure its citizens and its external partners on the coherence of its policy vis-à-vis the concerned institution. In the sensitive area of security, and that means trust, perception can easily replace reality.


In order to avoid any suspicion as to the seriousness of its commitment to an institution that it houses, a host country must firmly commit itself to the success of that institution. There is the regional credibility of the concerned organization and also that of the host country itself.

 The coherence of the action and the progress made by G 5 Sahel and its partners in the Liptako Gourma region are well appreciated. This area, common to Burkina, Mail and Niger, is already a region of mutual political and military cooperation between the three states. Practical achievements are accelerating, indicating a sincere agreement between the three member states. These three member states of Liptako Gourma do not seem to believe in "conspiracy" theories or to have made commitments, or other deals, with any armed groups.

Then, what should the G 5 Sahel states do to secure a peaceful future for their countries and their citizen?


1. On 21 December 2017, the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, entitled "Seizure of Property of Persons Compromised in Serious Cases of Human Rights Abuse or Corruption".


Last Updated ( Friday, 19 January 2018 17:17 )

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