G5 Sahel: towards a joint force?
On Monday, 6 February, the G5 Sahel heads of state met for their sixth extra-ordinary summit on the theme, “The security situation in Mali and its impact on the Sahel.” The meeting, which was organised in Bamako and included the participation of African Union President Alpha Condé, took place against a background in which the peace agreement is breaking down; there are persistent terrorist attacks and, in recent months, there have been many operations in neighbouring countries. Among the measures mentioned, the G5 leaders emphasised the implementation of a joint force. “We hope to soon have a clear mandate from the UN Security Council in order to allow this force, which was first planned during the N'Djamena summit [November 2015], to become truly operational,” said the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, at the end of the summit. “In our respective countries, the building blocks of this force are already in place. This is the case in the area between Chad and Niger. This is also the case for the three borders between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It will soon be the case between Mauritania and Mali. We hope to attack the heart of the threat, and the heart of the threat is in Mali.” The implicit model for the joint force is the Lake Chad Basin’s Multinational Joint Force (MJF). The MJF is considered to be one of the keys to success in the fight against Boko Haram combatants. One of its added values has been that it set up a headquarters, which provided a framework to improve co-ordination between different parts of the joint force and with the forces that operate under national command. The example of the MJF, however, also highlights the difficulties inherent in the implementation of such a force, difficulties that go beyond the financial stakes that were put forward by the G5 Sahel leaders at the Bamako meeting. Despite some progress in recent years, some partners are still reluctant to trust the others, as evidenced by reactions in the Malian press about Mauritania’s commitment to fighting terrorist groups. In the same vein, even if a security response is necessary in this situation, we should not forget that a joint force on its own is not capable of addressing the problems that create terrorism. Find out +