Situation in the Sahel remains very precarious [fr]
Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 20 November 2019
The situation in the Sahel remains very precarious, with the armies of the region are on the front line. The fighting that took place on Monday at the border between Mali and the Niger in an operation involving the armies of both countries attests to the persistent capacities of terrorist groups to inflict damage. The primary victims of terrorism are the people of the Sahel themselves. Since the beginning of the year, 1,500 people have reportedly fallen victim to terrorism in Mali and Burkina Faso.
The Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) Joint Force is the best tool available to deal with the spread of the terrorist threat. France welcomes the gains made in its operationalization. The Joint Force has conducted 11 operations since the beginning of the year. The most recent, Operation Bourgou IV, culminated last week and mobilized 1,400 men from the armies of Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger, with the support of forces from the French-led Operation Barkhane. The results are clear: 25 terrorists were neutralized or captured; several vehicles were recovered or destroyed, including 64 motorcycles; a workshop for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices was dismantled; and weapons, ammunition and more than a 100 telephones were seized. Progress has also been made within the human rights compliance framework, which is essential to ensuring that the Joint Force is more effective and does a better job of protecting civilians, especially society’s most vulnerable members, such as women and children.
If the Joint Force is to succeed, it needs a sustained commitment based first and foremost on the engagement of the G-5 countries themselves, but also, crucially, that of international partners. At the donor conference held in Brussels in February 2018, €414 million was pledged to the Joint Force, with the European Union, its member States and the United States being the main donors. We estimate that half of that support has been disbursed so far. The Joint Force battalions have received a number of vehicles as well as equipment for countering improvised explosive devices. France encourages donors that have yet to honour their commitments to do so as soon as possible. I also welcome the fact that the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has implemented logistical support for all of the Joint Force contingents. Resolution 2480 (2019) broadens that support to cover contingents deployed outside the borders of Mali, and we can see how valuable that is to the Joint Force. France supports the G-5 countries’ requests for increased multilateral support.
However, those essential efforts are not enough, as terrorism is now spreading throughout the subregion. France and Germany’s initiative of a Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel is intended to strengthen the Joint Force, while broadening its scope to include the countries of the region and other sectors such as internal security and justice systems. At the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 14 September, ECOWAS committed to combating terrorism more effectively. In Mali, starting in 2020, a European special forces unit named Takuba will also be deployed as part of Operation Barkhane to support the Malian armed forces on their path to autonomy and resilience.
It will be impossible to achieve sustainable security for the Sahel without development, and France calls for redoubling efforts to that end. We are doing our part in that regard by allocating €522 million in funding to the G-5 Sahel Priority Investment Programme for 2019 and 2020. We must do everything we can to meet the growing humanitarian needs in the region, particularly in Burkina Faso, and to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access for those who need assistance. The crisis in the Sahel is not just about development. The urgent humanitarian situation must compel all of us to do more