G5 Sahel force disappointed in the transfer of French military commitment
Once in power, French President Emmanuel Macron bet on the creation of an anti-jihadist force by the G5 Sahel to pave the way for the Barkhane disengagement. But when the starting signal was given, that hope largely evaporated.
Mr. Macron even went to Bamako on July 2, 2017, at the summit where the G5 Sahel formally launched its joint force to regain the ground it had lost to jihadist groups, particularly in the “three border region”, on the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the member states of these The regional organization, along with Mauritania and Chad.
Organized into three corridors, or 100-kilometre “zones” on either side of the common border, it officially includes eight battalions, or about 5,000 men, all stationed in their countries, with the exception of a Chadian battalion deployed in Niger since March 2021.
From the start, Barkhane, whose departure France announced from Mali on Thursday, has been planning and coordinating all operations of the G5 Sahel force, which is largely funded by the European Union, according to diplomatic and security sources.
– ‘Devastating effectiveness and morale’ –
Lacking basic means, devoid of sustainable funding and a strong UN mandate due to US-British opposition to the Security Council, marred by accusations of human rights abuses – summary executions of civilians and rape in particular – the Sahel force made little difference. the earth.
“Since the start of Operation Barkhane, it has been clear that there is a desire on the French side to find a way out because maintaining an external process for years, after a period becomes complicated, especially with public opinion,” explains Alain Antel, a specialist in the Sahel region at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). ).
Ideally, the national armies would have taken over from Barkhane, “especially the Malian army, but it is still in a very fragile situation. Then France hoped that the G5 Sahel would contribute to securing certain areas, especially the Three Borders region”, he continues. Alan Antel.
But in this region opposite the “central zone” of power, “France, instead of being able to gradually reduce its apparatus, had to retain an important apparatus, and even more aggressively reinvest it in Mali” at the beginning of 2020, he recalls. .
The UN in a May 2021 report lamented in a May 2021 UN report: “With its limited operational and logistical capabilities, the joint force continues to face great difficulty in supplying its forces.” in military garrisons and undermining their morale,” he added, denouncing the lack of air means however “necessary.”
– Expanding cooperation –
Since then, political instability in member states has further curbed this slow dynamic, with a second coup in Mali in May 2021 and another in Burkina Faso in January.
The last major operation of the forces ended several months ago. On a smaller scale, also in the Three Borders region, Nigerian and Chadian forces mobilized in early February. But the Burkinabe refused, citing the situation in their country and the absence of orders from their hierarchy, according to diplomatic sources close to the joint force.
“Today’s joint force are actually operations by France, Nigerians and Chadians only on the Nigerian side of the three borders,” the latter summed up to AFP.
“We always have effective operations with Malians, Nigerians and Chadians. However, the current context is complicated by the transitional situation in Burkina Faso: a period of suspension, of uncertainty”, on his part, a source in the French presidency.
In the face of the new agreement, Paris has expressed its intention to expand regional cooperation.
“While the G5 Sahel remains an essential forum for coordinating efforts across the Sahel sector, the Accra Initiative, which brings together Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin, should become a framework of reference,” Macron said. Thursday.
“Not to create new regional structures, but to ensure that each country does its part and receives the bilateral support it needs from partners,” he said.
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