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 Mali in 2017) ensures the control of the G5 Sahel Joint Force at the political level, while the Standing Committee on Defense ensures its strategic control. On 9 September, a general headquarters was inaugurated by President Keïta in Sévaré, Mali. 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 already been deployed under its authority conducted the first joint operation.

The G5 Sahel Force is 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 for the G5 Sahel progresses. The Conference of the Sahel Coalition organized on 13 December at La Celle Saint-Cloud helped to reinforce the level of international support. The European Union has allocated €50 million under the African Peace Facility. The five Sahel States will contribute €10 million each. The French effort amounts to €8 million in the form of logistical support, to which must be added operational support. The United States has earmarked $60 million for the States of the Joint Force. New support from European States has been recorded, as well as pledges from Middle Eastern States (Saudi Arabia for 100 million euros, the United Arab Emirates for 30 million euros). Additional bilateral contributions are expected during the Partners’ Conference provided for under resolution 2359.

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 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. 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 Sahel Alliance is currently finalizing its organization (two ministerial reunions took place at the end of 2017 and a conference is scheduled for the beginning of 2018). It is open to all partners willing to actively participate and respect its principles (method, including reciprocal delegations), around its founding members (France, Germany, EU, World Bank, African Development Bank, UNDP).

France has planned to allocate an additional €200 million to the Sahel countries over a six-year period within this framework.

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

Updated: January 2018