In recent times, the Sahel region has been bedevilled with extreme poverty, climate change, armed conflict and insecurity. These interdependent drivers continue to threaten the lives of millions already living on the brink. This year alone, over 30 million people are facing food insecurity, and almost 12 million of them are at crisis and emergency levels.
To discuss the way forward for the G5 Sahel nations – Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso – a summit was held in Mali’s capital Bamako. During the course of the meeting, President Emmanuel Macron of France stated that France and its African partners must work together to wipe out Islamist militants in the volatile Sahel region. “Every day we must combat terrorists, thugs, murderers … who we must steadfastly and with determination eradicate together,” Macron said.
On Sunday, the African nations launched a new multinational military force in the Sahel. The military unit comprises of a 5,000-man troop and is supported by the French government, the UN peacekeeping force and other partners of the UN missions. President Macron told the summit attendees that the force will be fully operational by autumn — September.
Since 2012, Islamist militant groups, some with links to Al-Qaeda, have seized control of Mali’s desert north. Despite being driven back a year later by a French-led military intervention, these groups continue to carry out attacks on UN peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets in violence that has spilt across Mali’s borders.
Observers say that the introduction of the military forces by the African nations will give the French troops an exit strategy. However, the leaders of the G5 Sahel bloc – Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – formally established that the new force will operate in coordination with French troops and MINUSMA, Mali’s struggling UN peacekeeping mission. More so, the total budget to tactfully enact the military force is approximately $423 million and the G5 Sahel nations have already been overstretched.
Prior to this time, it was reported that the countries of the G5 Sahel bloc began floating the idea of a regional force as early as 2015, but the plan recently gained momentum with President Macron’s backing.
“There is urgency because those we’re facing aren’t going to wait,” Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s President said. “It’s also clear that France alone must not continue to bear the burden of this fight against terrorism.”
With its military headquarters in the northern Mali town of Sevare, the G5 Sahel force will focus on three border zones – one along the frontier between Niger and Mali, another between Mali and Mauritania, and a third spanning the borders between Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
However, the underlying question as to whether the additional 5,000 troops will make any difference to the on-going militant crisis remains.
For instance, in 2013, according to Washington post, Washington alongside the French government sent troops to Mali to help resolve the militant crisis but the situation remains dire as the country is still torn.
In 2013 and 2016, Ethiopia and other international bodies sent troops to Somalia to help end the al-Shabab militant crisis that broke out but due to the mounting effect of the crisis, the troops were withdrawn by the various nations and this led to about 5,000 to 10,000 civilians fleeing to Ceel Barde, some 90 kilometers north of Tayeeglow along the Somali-Ethiopian border.
Also, earlier this year, it was reported that the UK, US, and Jordan collectively sent troops to Southern Syria to help curb the on-going crisis but the results are futile as more soldiers have died and the lives of civilians continue to be threatened.
Therefore, this draws the conclusion that sending troops in the past has not been able to solve the crisis bedevilling most African nations, so the chances of the 5,000 additional troops making a difference in the Sahel region are slim.