EU and France ramp up €1.3bn support for G5 Sahel

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The EU and France ramped up their funding for the G5 Sahel anti-terror alliance to €1.3bn at a two-day donor summit in Mauritania on Thursday (6 December).

At the end of the 48-hour summit in Nouakchott, the EU said it would contribute an additional €125 million, making a total of €800 million, while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced an extra €220 million for the programme, bringing its total funding to €500 million.

“Half of this sum is for projects already planned or underway,” Le Drian told the conference. “The other half will be awarded quickly over the next two years to enable you to meet your priorities.”

The Sahel Alliance was launched in July 2017 by France, Germany and the EU, as a joint military force commanded by the five African countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

“Terrorism, cross-border crime, drug smuggling and lack of security in the Sahel region are attributed to injustice, marginalisation, underdevelopment, absence of education and unemployment among young people,” said Drian.

Getting serious in the Sahel

Combating Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region has united Europe and the wider international community. Most attention has been focused on the G5 Sahel joint military operation which has been tasked with combating jihadist groups in the region.

Jihadist terror groups have been active in the region, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean across to the Red Sea, for a number of years, particularly since the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in 2011.

However, the Alliance’s operations have been hamstrung by delays in receiving pledged donor funds and operational disagreements.

There has also been criticism from the G5 countries and NGOs that funds should focus on economic development as well as security. The G5 countries are among the world’s poorest countries, with poverty rates of between 40 to 50%.

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said at the end of Thursday’s meeting that donors had together pledged €2 billion. But Issoufou has said that only €18 million of a total of €414 million pledged for the force in February had been received, undermining its ability to organise and deploy its soldiers across the region.

Much of the EU money will come from the European Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, set up in November 2015 after an EU-African Union summit in Valletta with the specific aim of reducing migration to the EU from the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and the North of Africa regions.

The Trust Fund was criticised as ‘lacking focus’ in a report published earlier this week by the European Court of Auditors.

“Considering the unprecedented challenges and the budget at stake, the fund should be more focused and steer the support towards specific actions likely to produce measurable impact,” said Bettina Jakobsen, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report.

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