The G 5 Sahel faces a series of challenges, all and each of them, of crucial priority. Mobilization of financial support, physical localization of its General Staff Headquarters, cooperation between its member states national armies, eradication of the very sources of terrorism as well as the battle to win public opinion, all appear on the dashboard of this regional security and development grouping.
Collaboration all over the place.
All these issues constitute too many challenges for the frail shoulders of states already weakened by the struggle against the evil forces. On the highway to stabilization, all the dashboard emergency signs are lit.
The G 5 Sahel countries, namely Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad are primarily engaged in mobilizing funds for the operationalization of their Force. After the promises, remain the disbursements, slow with regard to the urgency of the tasks to be implemented. Indeed, multilateral and bilateral partners pledged 414 million Euros at the, summit on the Sahel that took place in February 2018 in Brussels, Belgium . The commitments are broken down as follows:
- The European Union will pay 50 million euros;
- The five G 5 Sahel countries, 10 million euros each;
- On October 30, 2017, the United States pledged $ 60 million in assistance to member states;
- On December 13, 2017 Saudi Arabia announced a contribution of $ 100 million, and the United Arab Emirates, a contribution of $ 30 million.
Mauritania, which houses the headquarters of the G 5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat, insists on the need to ensure adequate and sustainable funding for the Joint Force, of € 423 million initially and 115 million annually, the following years. Early November, it was learned at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, that only 100 million Euros have been disbursed.
Terrorists have aggravated this financial situation. On Friday, June 29, a suicide car bomb attack targeted the G 5 Sahel Joint Force Headquarters in Sévaré, Mopti region in Mali, killing two Malian soldiers and injuring eleven elements of the Joint Force, including five Chadians, four Nigerians and two Malians. In support to the G 5 Sahel, both the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union proposed to rebuild the destroyed HQs infrastructure.
In July, General Hanena Ould Sidi, previously deputy chief of staff of the Mauritanian army, was appointed head of the G 5 Sahel Joint Force Command and a Chadian general was appointed as his deputy. In the process, the transfer of the staff to Bamako was announced.
Sévaré or Bamako? The final choice of one or the other location remains to be determined and can suppose or suggest different strategies. The transfer aims at taking more advantage of logistics and communication facilities available in Bamako for better coordination and conduct of operations. However, it would be prudent to provide additional explanations to help getting further support from the concerned public opinions.
Since the deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel, the same public opinions have discovered the ineffectiveness of the collaboration between the armies of the sub-region, whereas, very often, most of their officers are trained in the same military academies, whatever French, American, Russian, Moroccan, Malagasy, Cameroonian or others.
The effort to bring together and harmonize strategies and tactics is to be pursued, in an accelerated manner, with the support of external partners. It is really a question of infusing dynamic cooperation between the armed forces of the countries concerned. The problem could be summed up in one question: « How to transform a National Defense into a Regional Defense’’? In particular, information sharing requires enormous effort.
The cult of secrecy, or the dedication to the secret, endures. Even within States, the pooling of efforts to collect and then disseminate sensitive information remains laborious. A form of privatization and apportioning of information data should be dismantled, through changes in people, behavior and administrative legislation. This diagnosis is easy to demonstrate as the fight against terrorism, in the Sahel, has shown flaws in this valuable area of intelligence. Though protection of informants is a prerequisite, the Defense and Security Forces are making calls for collaboration. In combat zones, respect for the rule of law is not always guaranteed and that pressures the patriotic ardor of the civilian population.
The intelligence product is a rare commodity. In certain circumstances, such as national air space cover, the G 5 Sahel member states have to rely on sophisticated and expensive devices and on foreign military bases established on their national territories.
The eradication of the very seeds of terrorism.
G 5 Sahel was established to combat terrorism and transnational criminal networks. Indeed these fights are not limited to security and military activities.
The Sahel economic development is one of the means to address the evil at its roots, namely to demobilize those youth already parts of the small terrorist groups and to deter the other young elements from enlisting in this crusade of despair. Therefore the aim is to empty the combat from any religious significance and indeed from any spiritual dimension. To do so a « Priority Investment Program » (PIP) is being developed by G 5 Sahel. The first phase of this titanic enterprise covers the period 2018 – 2020, and includes 19 programs and 105 projects in various fields, for a projected budget of six thousand (6,000) billion FCFA. That is indeed a substantial amount.
Infrastructure projects account for the lion’s share, ie 75% of the financing required: road construction, development of hydraulic infrastructures, electrification, radio coverage, creation of a regional airline to be named « Air Sahel », and building a Trans-Saharan Railways of nearly 6,000 km intended to connect the Member States. The G 5 Sahel investment portfolio has other projects, no lesser complex: the fight against radicalization and violent extremism, the promotion of women, the integrated development of youth and the promotion of Human Rights.
So many challenges, in terms of fundraising! But this kind of « financial arrangement » has a major advantage: each donor can invest in his area of preference.
The battle for the public opinion.
« The most decisive battles are those of the spirit » (French author Robert Escarpit). Alongside these relevant projects, there is another fight for the G 5 Sahel to win, that of public opinion. At the assessment of each attack against the Defense and Security Forces, national opinions tend to explode. Like self-proclaimed « coaches » after a defeat of their favorite sport team, public opinions quickly turned into military strategists. And follow vehement arguments from these self-proclaimed experts, these living rooms experts in strategies:
« Officers do not want to fight! They send young, inexperienced men to the fire! «
– « You have to put a soldier in charge of the Department of National Defense! »
– « Now, time has come to appoint a man in uniform in charge of the Ministry of Security! »
Oddities, more than substantive analyses to which military officials’ responses are sometimes made in a similarly terse way: « What do civilians know about the military business? Nothing! «
These noises, orally epic but counterproductive on an operational level, prove, at will, that the communication of the Defense and Security Forces is to be improved.
The G 5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat, based in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, seems aware of this situation. It does multiply interventions in various media and in many forums to address it. This good practice is to intensify and refine.
So, the G 5 Sahel, a lure? Rather a light and a glimmer of Hope!
Written by André Marie POUYA for centre4s