G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Sahel Alliance

The G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad) are facing an increase in terrorist threats and organized crime, which are destabilizing the region. To address these common challenges, the response must be political, military and development-related. Two initiatives respond to these challenges: The G5 Sahel Cross-Border Joint Force, which illustrates the willingness of African nations to take charge of their own security; The Sahel Alliance, which is based on an approach of reciprocal accountability between the major development partners and the G5 States. France is involved in the international mobilization in support of these two exemplary initiatives.

G5 Sahel: an African political decision

The G5 Sahel Cross-Border Joint Force was officially launched on 2 July 2017, in Bamako, by the presidents of five States of the Sahel exposed to the threat of terrorism. This joint military force had been endorsed by the African Union and recognized by the UN Security Council by resolution 2359 (21 June 2017), sponsored by France.

Its mandate is to combat terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the G5 Sahel area. Its first operation took place in November 2017 with the armies of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

At full operating capacity, it comprises 5,000 troops (seven battalions spread over three zones: West, Center and East). It covers a strip of 50 km on each side of the countries’ borders. Subsequently, it is expected that a Sahelian counter-terrorism brigade will be deployed in northern Mali.

The current Chairman of the G5 Sahel (represented by Niger in 2018) ensures the control of the G5 Sahel Joint Force at the political level, while the defense ministers of the G5 Sahel countries ensure its strategic control. On 9 September, a general headquarters was inaugurated in Sévaré, Mali by the President of Mali Ibrahim Keïta. Three command posts (CP) are planned, one for each zone. The command post in the central zone (the "three-border" area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) is operational. The three battalions have already conducted several operations under its authority.

The G5 Sahel Force 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), whose mandate is to support the Malian authorities in the stabilization of their country. Resolution 2391 (8 December 2017) frames the articulation of the Joint Force with MINUSMA, providing for operational and logical support from the later to the former.

Financial and material support to the G5 Sahel is progressing. The Sahel Coalition conference organized on France’s initiative at 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 that confirmed the international community’s commitment to the Sahel, financial contributions totalling €414 million were pledged. These sums will be used to train and equip the G5 Sahel Joint Force.

Sahel Alliance: the second component of the Sahel Initiative

The efforts being made to increase the security of the region will be ineffective if they are not accompanied by a sustainable development effort.

To stabilize the region and prevent violent radicalization, it is essential to create the conditions for economic development, which will generate employment, notably for the growing population of young people.

This requires greater efforts to boost development in the region. Under the impetus of France and Germany, the Sahel Alliance launched in Paris on 13 July, in the presence of the President of the French Republic and the German Chancellor. It brings together the main multilateral and bilateral development partners of the Sahel States. The Alliance includes 9 members: France, Germany, the European Union, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, Italy, Spaub and the United Kingdom.

The Alliance is neither a new structure nor a tool for financial appeals but a mechanism for strengthening the coordination among partners and provide for assistance that is more rapid, more effective and better targeted in order to help vulnerable zones. Five key sectors are targeted: youth employability – education and training –; agriculture, rural development and food security; energy and climate; governance; decentralization and support for the deployment of basic services.

The donors within the Sahel Alliance will fund more than 400 projects in the area worth a total of more than €6.5 billion. France will play a full part in this effort, with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) financing more than €1.2 billion in projects – a 40% increase in its support for the Sahel over the period 2018-2022.

On 6 December 2018, an international donor conference took place in Nouakchott to support the G5 Sahel Priority Investment Programme (PIP). Forty projects are being launched under this programme, primarily in Sahel border areas, reflecting the solidarity and cooperation between countries affected by the same crises. Most 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). However, the programme also includes an emergency stabilization programme, which will be immediately rolled out in the most vulnerable areas. In Nouakchott, France announced that it would contribute €499 million (with €496 million being delivered by the Agence Française de Développement) towards developing the region, including €90 million under the emergency stabilization programme.

For more information, visit the article: The terrorist threat in the Sahel

Updated: November 2018