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Sahel

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council expects to receive a briefing on the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Resolution 2359 of 21 June asked the Secretary-General to provide an oral briefing within two months of the adoption on the activities of the G5 Sahel, “including on its operationalization, on challenges encountered and possible measures for further consideration”.

Key Recent Developments

The Sahel region continues to experience instability. Over the past year, terrorist and violent extremist groups from Mali have increasingly spread into north-east Burkina Faso and western Niger. In particular, Niger has been under pressure from a triple threat: armed groups in Mali to its west, the conflicts in Libya to its north, and attacks by Boko Haram in the south-east. 

At a summit in Bamako on 6 February, the heads of state of the G5 Sahel countries announced their decision to establish a regional force of 5,000 troops to combat terrorism and transnational crime.

On 13 April, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) authorised the deployment of the G5 Sahel Joint Force for an initial period of 12 months. The PSC mandated the force to: 

  • combat terrorism, drug trafficking, and human trafficking;
  • contribute to the restoration of state authority and the return of displaced persons and refugees;
  • facilitate humanitarian operations and the delivery of aid to affected populations as much as possible; and
  • contribute to the implementation of development strategies in G5 Sahel countries.

The G5 force is to deploy along the Mali-Mauritania border; the Liptako Gourma border region between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; and the Niger-Chad border. In its 13 April communiqué, the PSC urged the UN Security Council to approve the deployment of the force and to authorise the UN Secretary-General to “identify the modalities of sustainable and predictable financial and logistical support to be provided to the Force”, including through the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

On 15 May, the Secretary-General circulated to Council members the PSC communiqué and the draft concept of operations of the joint force with a letter from the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, conveying the AU request to the Council. On 21 June, the Council adopted resolution 2359, which welcomed the deployment of the G5 force throughout the territories of its contributing countries. The resolution’s adoption followed a difficult negotiation over whether the Council should authorise the force and envisage the possibility of using UN assessed contributions to support its budget. Neither was included in the final text. The resolution encourages bilateral and multilateral partners to support the force and to expeditiously convene a planning conference to ensure the coordination of donor assistance. For follow-up, the resolution, in addition to asking for the oral briefing, requested the Secretary-General to provide a written report within four months. It also expressed the Council’s “intent to review” the force’s deployment after four months.

At a G5 Sahel heads of state summit in Bamako on 2 July attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, the five Sahel countries formally launched the force. In addition to the EU’s previously announced commitment of 50 million euros to the force, Macron said that France would contribute around 8 million euros towards logistical support. Each of the G5 Sahel countries pledged to contribute 10 million euros. The currently promised funds, however, still leave a significant gap in funding the projected 423 million euro annual budget.

On 13 July, Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in Paris the launch of the Alliance for the Sahel, a joint initiative of France, Germany and the EU to improve development cooperation in the region and promote innovative development among the EU, its member states, the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the UN. The joint statement announcing the alliance noted that the initiative would not duplicate the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, developed by the UN in 2013 to address the region’s underlying causes of instability.

Key Issues

The planned briefing is expected to update members on progress in establishing and deploying the joint force and on issues related to funding and possible challenges to the force’s sustainability. The session will also likely consider security developments in the region. It may further provide information about how MINUSMA and France’s counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane are supporting G5 countries in establishing the force.   

Options

The Council is unlikely to take substantive decisions in August in light of the Secretary-General’s expected report in October and the Council’s intention to subsequently review the force’s deployment. It could, however, consider issuing a statement that welcomes any progress reported on the establishment of the G5 Joint Force and that commends the commitment of the G5 Sahel countries and the support provided by the EU and France.

Council and Wider Dynamics

While members support this initiative to tackle the region’s security threats, the Council is divided over the UN’s role in funding the G5 force. During negotiations on resolution 2359, the US and several other major financial contributors objected to authorising the force, in part because they considered it unnecessary but also out of concern about the financial obligations such an authorisation could imply. France, which maintains Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, supported the position of the G5 countries and the AU that the UN should consider providing assessed contributions.

Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger have deployed about 4,000 soldiers within MINUSMA. Chad and Niger also contribute troops to the Multinational Joint Task Force, which is a similar regional force set up by Lake Chad Basin countries to combat Boko Haram. Chadian President Idriss Deby, whose government is under significant financial strain because of a recession, has expressed reluctance about participating further in the G5 Joint Force unless more international support is provided.

France acted as penholder on resolution 2359.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE G5 SAHEL

Security Council Resolutions
29 June 2017 S/RES/2364 This was a resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate for an additional year.
21 June 2017 S/RES/2359 This welcomed the deployment of the G5 Sahel force.
Security Council Meeting Record
21 June 2017 S/PV.7979 This was the meeting during which the Council adopted resolution 2359.

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