There is a lack of consensus between allies the US and France over funding for the G5 Sahel counter terrorism army, which works to combat terrorism in West Africa, in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The US, and France, are therefore currently not on the same page regarding how support should be given to the G5 Sahel mission. While France is requesting a mandate from the Security Council to allow the UN to contribute to the multilateral funding of the anti-jihadist force, the US favors bi-lateral support granted directly to the involved countries.
"The US keeps repeating that the UN’s Chapter VII authorization is not necessary for accomplishing G5 Sahel Joint Force missions. The member states already have agreements on military operations in their respective territories," said Jonathan Cohen, US Deputy Ambassador to the UN.
"We are disappointed that some in this Security Council and elsewhere continue to discuss Chapter VII and the allocation of contributions to the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The US is aware of the need to achieve the full operationalisation of the Joint Force, and the US administration has mobilized up to $ 111 million in financial support to the five Sahel countries," he added.
According to François Delattre, French ambassador to the UN, "France's ambition is to strengthen multilateral support through a robust mandate, and only predictable and sustainable support can guarantee the success of efforts by the G5 Joint Force in the medium term," he told the UN Security Council.
Made up of countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, where the headquarters of its permanent secretariat are located, the G5 Sahel Joint Force is an initiative which is part of the strategy for security and sustainable development, to fight terrorism and organised crime, consolidate regional governance, and strengthen the resilience and human development of their populations.
Created in February 2014, the G5 Sahel military is the Sahelian political and economic counterpart of the French Barrakhan anti-jihadist operation, and is intended to improve the coordination of security and defense activities between member states. However, the G5 Sahel force has so far faced enormous problems in funding itself, as its member countries are among the poorest in the world. The budget required for its full operation is estimated to be nearly 500 million Euros for a total of 5,000 troops from the five member countries.
But, for the moment, the G5 Sahel army consists of 4,000 soldiers and the expected funds have not all been granted, despite the strong revival of terrorist attacks in the Sahel region. According to the UN, most of the funds promised by the international community have still not been paid. This leaves the G5 Sahel counter-terrorist force badly prepared, and without having been able to carry out a single military operation against the jihadist groups, five years since its creation. France is the only country that has always wanted the power to obtain a UN mandate and the US has so far opposed this request.
Bintou Kéita, UN Under-Secretary-General for Africa, called on G5 Sahel States to speed up the operation of their joint force. In addition, several other members of the Security Council reiterated the appeal of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to lift geographical restrictions on the material and financial support currently provided only to battalions operating in Mali.
"The situation in Mali and the Sahel remains extremely worrying. Climate change, drought, growing insecurity, violent extremism, illicit trafficking of people, weapons and drugs are all challenges facing the region," said Kéita to the UN Security Council.
However, the UN official said it would also be important to clarify the framework under which various operations of the G5-Sahel member states are conducted, as there are many ongoing operations being carried out by the armed forces of these states, either alone, bilaterally, jointly with the international troops, or as part of G5 Sahel operations.
At the G5 Sahel Extraordinary Summit on May 1st, in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly advocated for the Joint Force. Confirming that she was aware of the urgency of the terrorist threat, Merkel added that Europe should be more responsive in mobilising aid.
For their part, the presidents of the G5 Sahel member countries asked Merkel to use her leadership to bring European countries to make more efforts for the full operation of the Joint Force, whose main objective is to drive terrorist groups from their bases in the Sahel region. Germany has already paid 60 million Euros in terms of contribution to the G5 Sahel anti-jihadist army, and the Bundeswehr, Germany’s federal armed forces, contribute up to 850 troops in Mali as part of peacekeeping mission.