L/R: Senegal’s president Macky Sall and Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame in Dakar
DAKAR, SENEGAL – Fear of regional insecurity not only sparked courage in many African leaders across the continent, they are now using that opportunity to demand serious actions. On Monday, several African leaders used a regional forum to call for extra support as the continent’s moves to assure its own security after years of Western interventions and financial support.
The annual Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security this year brought together the leaders of Rwanda and Mali, and host nation Senegal along with senior military officials and experts from across the continent to discuss the continent’s serious challenges in the sector.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall, in his opening remarks, told the forum that a “military response must be comprehensive, and one of solidarity, to leave terrorist groups no place to hide.”
“The risk today is seeing terrorists defeated elsewhere seeking fallback zones in Africa,” Sall added.
Sall indicated the western intervention in Libya as an example as to why African populations had to be involved in decisions on rooting out terror groups, as instability in one nation has the possibility of fueling conflict elsewhere.
“We must beware of preconceived solutions formulated without Africans,” Sall added. “The consequences of these interventions, which we are living in the Sahel, are often worse than what they were supposed to rectify.”
Despite assistance from several Western countries and African groups, the vast Sahel region, stretching from Senegal to Sudan, has twisted into a ferment of lawlessness since chaos swamped Libya in 2011.
From Libya, Islamists have overrun and captured northern Mali in 2012 and Boko Haram rose up in northern Nigeria, posing serious security and economic challenges to several affected African nations.
The forum was initiated and encouraged by the G5 Sahel force, an anti-jihadist military initiative working across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to counter the significant threat Al-Qaeda-linked groups pose in the region and to stop Islamic State gaining a foothold.
The five-nation G5 Sahel plans to increase up to 5,000 military, police and civilian troops by March 2018.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who will be chairing the African Union from 2018, said African nations “have only ourselves to blame” if the international community alone decided on the continent’s security needs.
According to sources, The Dakar Forum is a French-backed initiative, and France maintains a heavy military presence across the Sahel region.
Florence Parly, the French defense minister, said Africans “know what it is to be wounded to the core by terrorist savagery,” paying tribute to the 130 people killed in the 2015 Paris attacks on the event’s second anniversary.