WEST AFRICA – The military chief of an African coalition force planning to fight jihadists in the distressed Sahel region requested on Sunday for political support.
The force is known as “G5 Sahel” comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Authorities say the force is expected to launch its first operation at the end of October but funding remains an issue.
On Sunday, UN Security Council ambassadors traveled to the command headquarters of the Force in the central Malian town of Sevare to hold talks on the security crisis in the troubled region.
The force commander and Malian general Didier Dacko said, “We are first of all waiting for fundamental political support,” from the Security Council to begin operation. General Dacko added that the force is also in need of equipment and training. “We had planned to reach maximum operational capacity in the next few months, in 2018, and at the rate, things are going, we think it’s achievable,” Dacko added.
According to people familiar with the operations, the estimated budget for the force’s first year of operations is estimated at 423 million euros ($499 million), but so far only 108 million euros have been mobilized.
The enormous Sahel region has become a center of lawlessness and extremism since disorder began in Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Last Saturday, a deadly attack in Niger’s bedlam southwest, which borders Mali, killed 13 paramilitary police, weeks after a noxious ambush on a joint US-Niger patrol. Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, cautioned the international efforts and staff in the region last week that the Sahel region was sliding into all-out violence.
The UN scribe said the world body must assist the region to handle the threat from Islamist militants. The secretary-general recommended four options to back the force, including establishing a UN support office in the Sahel and sharing resources from the 13,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Mali.
According to a top UN official, a UN meeting on support for the force is slated for October 30, to be followed by a donor conference in Brussels in December. Mali’s parliament on Friday agreed to a three-month extension of the state of emergency because of the “continuing threat” of armed groups.
Eyewitnesses and security analysis confirmed that Mali has become particularly explosive since 2012 when jihadist groups took control of country’s north region.