Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, told delegates that the fight against armed groups in the Sahel has intensified since late 2020. He described the joint troop, which was used for the first time in 2017 by the “Group of Five” (G-). 5) Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – as an integral part of security measures in the region.
“Ever more challenging” environment
In recent years, attacks by armed extremist groups, who often hit security forces and civilians who lead their daily lives, have escalated in the countries of the Sahel.
In a single attack by armed men on January 2, more than 100 people died in a village in western Niger. On April 21, President Idriss Déby Itno of Chad was killed after he was injured in clashes with rebel groups.
Regional troops deployed by the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, as well as staff from the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the France-led Operation Barkhane, are fighting to contain the violence.
Mr Lacroix described the efforts to respond to the “increasingly challenging” environment and said today that the Joint Force is also facing major challenges in terms of its operational and logistical capabilities, such as the transport and supply of its troops.
Despite these challenges, the Joint Force and its partners have taken some important steps against extremist groups in recent months.
The anti-terrorist operation “Sama 2”, which started in August 2020, was continued this year. “Sama 3” – supported by the deployment of an additional battalion from Chad – was launched in March. In the meantime, the Joint Force continued to improve its operational capabilities.
Strengthening the police component of the Joint Force will be an important next step, enabling better monitoring of military operations and linking them more closely to state-building, human rights and judicial reform efforts.
In addition, Mr Lacroix welcomed the demonstration of the G-5 Sahel’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting serious allegations of sexual violence reportedly committed by some of its forces.
Debate on funding
Referring to an assessment of the support MINUSMA provided to the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, carried out at the request of the Council, Mr Lacroix said the predictability of funding was a matter of concern.
“It is necessary that [the Joint Force] gets the support it needs to do its job, ”he said, noting that the current support model presents operational challenges and leaves little room for flexibility.
Against this background, the United Nations continued to call for more predictable funding alongside the G-5 Sahel and other partners. Questions were raised in the Member States on how best to finance the Joint Forces and other peacekeeping operations on the African continent.
“In view of the situation in the Sahel zone, the international community must be motivated to act through a shared responsibility … in a spirit of solidarity with the people of the region,” he emphasized.