The G5 Sahel: A New Means Of Stabilizing Mali

On the 25th of June, Idriss Deby, the president of Chad warned Western nations that if they did not offer more financial assistance, Chad may be forced to withdraw some of its troops from the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region. Chad is one of the principle allies in the region and has contributed significantly in combating Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.

Deby claims that since intervention in Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, Chad has spent over 300 billion CFA francs (512 million dollars) of its own money. He went on to say that if the situation continued ‘Chad would no longer be able to keep as many soldiers outside its territory,’ with the majority returning at the end of 2017.

This announcement comes during French President, Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Mali. This is his first trip outside of France since being elected and he has sought to establish a new West African military force that would be able to effectively counter terrorism not only in Mali, but also in the wider Sahel region.

Insurgency has been rampant in Mali ever since 2012, Tuareg rebellion where the Northern provinces tried to gain independence. Mali, with the help of 3,000 French troops were able to pacify the region in 2013, but problems have been ongoing. On the 21st of November 2015, a terrorist attack at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital city, Bamako, killed at least 21 people. Only two weeks ago, two people were killed in another incident at Le Campement in the South West of the country.

Nations in the Sahel region have responded to threat of terrorism by establishing the G5 Sahel. Founded in 2014, the coalition of countries aims to strengthen cooperation on development and security in the region. Last year, the G5 Sahel proposed establishing units of 100 well-trained soldiers that would patrol areas where terrorists were believed to be operating. The original proposal was rejected by the United States due to the wording of the bill that authorized the patrols to ‘use all necessary means.’ However, the United Nations Security Council, on the 21st of June, did unanimously back the proposal after the language had been revised.

Critics argue that this bill was passed on the prerogative of France so that they could begin to withdraw their troops. Around 4,000 French troops are deployed in Mali, and have been there since the original intervention of 2013. If France can establish a dependable security force in the region then they would be able to leave the Sahel.

However, the resolution also persuaded others from the International community to donate to the new organisation. The European Union has already promised 56 million dollars, and so long as the G5 Sahel cooperate and increase peace in the region, international aid is sure to increase.

Alongside the 4,000 French soldiers, there is also a U.N. peacekeeping force of 10,000 stationed in Mali. If the international community gave more generously to the G5 Sahel as president Idriss Deby suggested, then they would be less in conflicts in the region.

The United States is trying to scale back spending on U.N. peacekeeping forces and is in the process of reviewing each of the 16 missions. U.N. peacekeeping forces have proved to be ineffective in many parts of Africa, a new alternative would be to fund the G5 Sahel instead.

The geography of the Sahel dictates that the majority of terror groups in the area are able to cross into other countries with ease. Only a few days ago on Friday, there was a suicide bombing by Boko Haram in Niger, 50km across the border from Nigeria, that killed two people and injured eleven. Transnational groups such as those feed off the lack of cooperation between countries, investing in a united Sahel that tackles issues together is the first step in fighting against organisations like Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.