As part of efforts aimed at combatting insecurity in the Sahel region and West Africa at large, regional leaders have pledged up to one billion dollars to fund a new anti-terrorism plan.
“With regards to financing ECOWAS decided to contribute 1 billion dollars to the financing of the joint forces and to the reinforcement of the operational capabilities and of state intelligence,” Niger President, Mahamadou Issoufou said during an extraordinary counter-terrorism summit over the weekend.
At the summit held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, members of the Economic Community Summit of West African States (ECOWAS) were joined by Mauritania and Chad. The pledge is expected to be funded from 2020 to 2024.
Rising terror in the Sahel
In recent years, terror groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) have strengthened their foothold across the Sahel region. As a result, large swathes of territory are currently ungovernable and local ethnic violence has surged, with Mali and Burkina Faso most affected.
In a bid to drive back the armed groups, a multinational military force in the Sahel region, supported by France, pulled troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania in 2017. A lack of finance, training, and equipment, however, has reportedly limited the effectiveness of the G5 Sahel joint taskforce and its numbers. At the moment, the force numbers 4,000 troops, when 5,000 were originally planned.
Highlighting the mounting human, economic and political toll of the violence, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, said there have been 2,200 attacks in the last four years, 11,500 dead, thousands wounded and millions of displaced while economic activity has been greatly affected.
According to Burkina Faso’s President, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, the escalation of violence has led to “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in the Sahel, adding that “threats transcend borders. No country is safe.”
Moreover, the United Nations (UN) had in July said attacks were spreading so fast in West Africa that the region should consider bolstering its response beyond current military efforts. “I totally believe we are not winning the war against terrorism in the Sahel and that the operation should be strengthened,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier this month.
While Brou urged the UN to strengthen its MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, which has been based in Mali since 2013, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said “MINUSMA and the G5 Sahel are not enough. We have to find (a) wider and more effective means of coordination”
It is expected that the one billion dollars, which will be paid into a common fund, would help reinforce the military operations of the countries involved as well as those of the joint military operations in the troubled region.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS would also ask the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider security spending as an “investment” and garner support from Western and Arab donors, Niger’s Issoufou added.