Category Archives: Sahel

EU confirms Sahel strategy

Brussels 19.04.2021 The EU Council approved conclusions reaffirming the importance of a solid and long-term partnership between the EU and the Sahel, and on the EU’s integrated strategy in the region. (Image above: Barkhane, Les Black Hawk suédois rejoignent la Task Force Takuba).

The Council approved conclusions reaffirming the importance of a solid and long-term partnership between the EU and the Sahel, and of stepping up that partnership through an ambitious EU strategy setting the framework for its policies and actions in the region.

Since 2012 the Sahel has faced a profound security crisis that has hampered its development and, together with other long-term trends such as climate change, demographic pressure, the access to natural resources and epidemic risks, risks wiping out the progress made in recent decades.

During the period of the previous EU Sahel strategy (2011-2020), the EU has mobilised all instruments at its disposal, from humanitarian aid to security forces, to support the Sahel populations, and now intends to intensify its political efforts through a new, ambitious, inclusive and flexible strategy based on the principle of mutual accountability with Sahel partner authorities.

In line with international coordination efforts within the Sahel Coalition, the EU emphasises the importance of a ‘civilian and political leap forward’ focusing both on short-term stabilisation and long-term prospects for sustainable social, environmental and economic development, above and beyond military involvement.

The promotion protection and fulfilment of all human rights will continue to remain at the heart of EU support for the Sahel, as well as efforts in the areas of governance and the rule of law, anti-corruption, and the provision of basic public services to all people.

Recognizing past as well as emerging trends, the EU will continue to support Sahel partners in fighting terrorist armed groups, and support their efforts in the field of security sector reform.

The EU will continue strengthening the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its core, alongside regional organisations.

Niger: Borrell on defeating terrorism

Brussels 23.03.2021 “A few days after the attack on Banibangou, Niger is grieved by another massacre in the Tahoua region” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell tweeted, reacting upon the recent events in the Sahel region.
(Picture above: illustration).

“In one week, more than 200 civilians were victims of the indiscriminate and borderless violence of terrorist groups”.
“Nigeriens have not been intimidated by the various attacks that have marked these past weeks. On the contrary, they have completed a historic democratic process which constitutes a decisive stage for the consolidation of democracy in their country. They can count on the European Union to continue to lead with them the fight which will bring back security and stability to their country”, Borrell continued.

“By perpetrating these attacks against defenseless civilians, terrorists strengthen our resolve to confront them” the European diplomat concluded.

At least 137 Nigerien civilians were killed on Sunday, March 21, in an attack on several localities near the Malian border, the Nigerien government said in a statement late Monday.

“In the afternoon of Sunday March 21, 2021 at around 1 p.m. (1200GMT), the localities of Intazayane, Bakorat, Wirsnat and several other hamlets and camps located in the department of Tillia, Tahoua region, witnessed an attack perpetrated by armed bandits,” said the statement read on national TV by government spokesperson Abdourahamane Zakaria.

At least 137 people were killed and several others were injured, Zakaria said, adding that “reinforced security and health measures have been taken in the area and an investigation has been opened”.

The spokesperson also announced a three-day national mourning to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks.

It is the second deadly attack on Nigerien civilians in a week. On March 15, unidentified gunmen attacked and killed at least 58 civilians returning from a weekly market in the Banibangou department, Tillaberi region, near the Malian border, according to Zakaria.

Niger’s Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, bordering northern Mali, have been facing recurrent armed attacks since 2017 attributed to terrorist groups operating in northern Mali. As a result of these attacks, the entire Tillaberi region and part of Tahoua were placed under a state of emergency.

Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali in the Sahel are at the epicenter of one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crises.

The region hosts 851,000 refugees and nearly 2 million displaced people, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

In January, around 100 people were killed in attacks in two Tillaberi villages after the first round of presidential elections.

EU condemns Niger attacks

Brussels 17.03.2021 “The EU condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack on March 15 that killed more than 58 civilians in Banibangou in #Niger. In this historic electoral period, the EU calls for social cohesion and reaffirms its commitment to Nigeriens. #AUEU” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

At least 58 people have been killed in Niger after attacks near the border with Mali, according to the government announcement.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on four vehicles that were bringing people back from a market in the Tillabéri region. No group has claimed the attacks, which happened on Monday, March 15.
However, at present there are two jihadist campaigns in Niger – one in the west near Mali and Burkina Faso, and another in the south-east on the border with Nigeria.

In a statement read out on public television, the Niger government said that “groups of armed, still unidentified individuals intercepted four vehicles carrying passengers back from the weekly market of Banibangou to the villages of Chinedogar and Darey-Daye”.

“The toll from these barbarous acts [is] 58 dead, one injured, a number of grain silos and two vehicles burned, and two more vehicles seized” the statement concluded.

SAHEL: Chad to deploy thousand troops

Chad will deploy some 1,000 troops in Sahel to the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali to reinforce national armies that, backed by French and European allies, are battling Islamist groups, according to French and Chadian sources. (Image: illustration).

The deployment will be announced during a summit on February 15-16 in the Chadian capital N’Djamena held to tackle the situation in the Sahel, a French presidency official and a senior Chadian security official said.

The move is announced while France, which sent troops to the region in 2013 to repel jihadists who had occupied northern Mali, considers adjusting its military presence. This could entail France pulling some of the 5,100 soldiers that are involved in counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel.

Although France has claimed military successes against Islamist insurgents over the past year, it is searching for an exit strategy. The grinding operation has cost billions of euros and left 55 French soldiers dead, yet violence is persisting with signs it is spreading to coastal West Africa.

The French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Emmanuel Macron could decide to hold off for a few weeks before adjusting his forces as he continues to consult with Sahel and European partners on the way forward.

“We now have very encouraging signals of an imminent deployment of the Chadian battalion,” the official told reporters in a briefing ahead of the summit. Financing from partner countries and equipment from France had been secured.

Chadian troops were last year mostly engaged in fighting insurgents from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa in the Lake Chad region.

Chad’s armed forces are among the most respected and battle hardened in West Africa, a reputation forged during decades of regional wars and rebellions, and honed in the 2013 campaign in the deserts of northern Mali.

Their deployment to the tri-border theatre would enable French and other forces to re-orient their military mission to central Mali and to target Islamist leaders linked to al Qaeda.

The Chadian security source said the troops were already en route to the tri-border region, known as Liptako-Gourma, a region slightly larger than Germany, where the allies are trying to wrest back control of terrain from the insurgents.

Niger’s ruling party presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum told a campaign rally in the Tillabery region, situated in Liptako-Gourma, that Chadian troops will be based there.

Sahel: EU debt relief efforts

Brussels 30.11.2020 The EU is committed to furthering international debt relief efforts for African countries. The Council today approved a set of conclusions in response to a call from the European Council of 15-16 October 2020 to prepare a common approach in this respect.

The conclusions highlight the increasing debt vulnerability in low income countries, particularly in Africa, and underscore the EU’s support for a coordinated international approach on debt relief efforts for African countries.

The Council welcomes the G20 – Paris Club Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which offers a temporary debt moratorium to the poorest countries to help them manage the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its extension until 30 June 2021 with the possibility of a further extension by 6 months. It commits to a full and transparent implementation of this initiative.

The Council also recognises that for countries with unsustainable debt levels further debt relief may be required. It welcomes the G20 agreement on a “Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI” as a major step forward in the sovereign debt restructuring international architecture. In this context, it advocates the negotiation of debt restructuring where necessary, on a case-by-case basis, while ensuring strong conditionality on public financial management, anti-corruption frameworks and domestic resource mobilization in the context of an IMF programme.

The Council also stresses that debt transparency is critical for a sound assessment of debt sustainability, debtor government accountability, and to enable informed decisions for borrowers and creditors in the context of debt relief efforts. It takes the view that all public debt data should therefore be disclosed and supports international efforts aimed at strengthening debt transparency in low-income countries.

Burkina Faso: 14 soldiers killed in ambush

Brussels, 13.11.2020 At least 14 soldiers perished and eight others were wounded in an ambush against a military convoy in Burkina Faso, the government said late Thursday.
The incident occurred on Wednesday along the Tinakof-Beldiabe road in Burkina Faso’s northern province of Oudalan.
“A unit of the Tin-Akoff military detachment in the province of Oudalan, Sahel region fell into an ambush on Wednesday perpetrated by a group of terrorists, killing 14 and eight wounded, three of whom were serious,” Communication Minister Remis Dandjinou said.

The Minister said defense and security forces engaged in search operations to track down the perpetrators of the attack.

“I am suspending my campaign for 48 hours in order to sympathise with the entire Nation and particularly the #FDS (The Burkina Faso Armed Forces ) at the disappearance of our brave Soldiers. May they rest in peace!” wrote Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, the former Prime-Minister and the candidate for the presidency.

Last month, unknown assailants attacked a village in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least 24 people, leaving another 18 injured in the attack, the number of kidnapped remained unknown.

SAHEL: EU mobilises €238M

Brussels 09.10.2020 This Monday, November 9, 2020, the Mauritanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Mauritanians Abroad, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, co-chaired with the High Representative, Josep Borrell, the 6th G5 ministerial meeting Sahel-EU.

Two points were on the agenda of the discussions: the follow-up to the commitments made since the meeting between the leaders of the European Union and the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel of April 28, 2020 within the framework of the Coalition for the Sahel ; and an exchange on the new Sahel strategy of the European Union.

On the first point, the two parties welcomed the European Union’s commitment beyond the additional 194 million euros announced in April, in support of the security-development nexus: in total, nearly 238 million euros have already been mobilised for projects in the field of stabilisation of the most vulnerable regions (security and resilience). The two parties also recalled that the European mission to support the Malian defence forces (EUTM Mali) can now gradually expand its training in Burkina Faso and also in Niger. The establishment of the P3S secretariat by the EU should allow increased and coordinated support to the security and stability capacity of the G5 countries.

The G5 Sahel Ministers reaffirmed the determination of their Governments to pursue their efforts in the fields of security and development, in particular with regard to the delivery of basic services to the populations and respect for human rights and of international humanitarian law by the security and defense forces. The continuation of the ongoing investigations into the suspected cases of abuse is fundamental in this context.

With regard to the fight against Covid-19, the European Union, in Team Europe format, recalled the actions taken to redirect 449 million euros to provide medical equipment, finance awareness campaigns, and accelerate budget support disbursements to address the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. A total of 92 million euros will be disbursed today for Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, to support the implementation of plans to respond to the pandemic, without worsening debt levels .

Underlining the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the already fragile balances existing in the Sahel, the Foreign Ministers of the G5 Sahel once again called for a total cancellation of the debt of the G5 Sahel countries and for the mobilisation of resources financial resources to help restart the economies of the Sahel. The two sides agreed to continue international efforts to reduce debt and access international sources of finance in a coordinated manner within the relevant multilateral frameworks.

Insisting on the need to find lasting solutions to the crisis, the EU and the G5 welcomed the organization of a conference on the central Sahel on October 20, during which the EU announced an additional contribution of 43 million euros, to help the more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

On the second point, the meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the ongoing review of the European Union’s Sahel strategy. The EU top diplomat underlined that the European Union would remain one of the main partners of the G5 Sahel States but that this partnership will henceforth be more demanding, the contribution of the European Union, however important it may be, only support the strong political will of the G5 Sahel States. From this perspective, the focus will be more on achieving results and implementing reforms aimed at strengthening governance.

The Foreign Ministers of the G5 Sahel welcomed the continued European engagement in the Sahel. The Ministers hoped that European and international support would come in support of local initiatives and in a coordinated manner between the various partners. As such, they are delighted to see the European Union involving them in the review of its Sahel strategy.

In conclusion, the High Representative and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel welcomed the holding of the next meeting between the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel and the President of the European Council on November 30, 2020.

EU increases support to Sahel

Brussels 20.10.2020 Today, the European Union, Denmark and Germany and the United Nations co-host a virtual Ministerial Roundtable on Africa’s Central Sahel region, with the participation of donors and international organisations, as well as the countries concerned: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The event will discuss longer-term perspectives for countries in the region to overcome the spiral of violence and humanitarian crises they are currently facing. It also aims at mobilising support for the region, especially as coronavirus pandemic increases humanitarian needs.

Representing the EU at the event, Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, will pledge a total of €43.6 million on behalf of the EU to the three countries in the Central Sahel region for the rest of 2020.

“Throughout recent years, the EU has been particularly committed to the Sahel and international support provided has been significant. Yet, the security, social and humanitarian situation in Central Sahel is only deteriorating. In face of this dramatically worsening situation, together – the international community and the governments concerned – we must do better, more and act fast. Only by addressing the deep-rooted causes can we succeed in providing a better life to the people caught in the crises afflicting the region” Lenarčič said.

“Today’s conference is a very clear sign of our solidarity towards the Sahel region and its people. Our €20 million support to the World Food Programme will help the most vulnerable in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and especially pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children. We hope to assist 65,000 people next year with this project. If we all join forces along the peace-development-humanitarian nexus and our partner countries take responsibility for improving governance and reforms, I am convinced that we can make a difference for the people in the Sahel. Team Europe will keep on supporting the people of Sahel” Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships said.

The EU’s pledge consists of: €23.6 million in funding for humanitarian actions in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
€20 million in development funding to address the food crisis afflicting the Central Sahel region, in cooperation with the World Food Programme.
Overall, EU and the EU Member States have mobilised around €8 billion since 2014 to help stabilise the Sahel region.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are at the core of one of the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crises created by a combination of conflict, climatic changes and poverty. It is estimated that a staggering 13.4 million people across the Central Sahel are in need of humanitarian assistance.

In 2020, the EU has mobilised a total €84.6 million in humanitarian assistance for Central Sahel countries, including the amount that will be pledged today. In June 2020, the EU also organised two EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flights to Burkina Faso, carrying 26 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and equipment needed for the coronavirus response in the country.

Since 2014, the EU has invested more than €3.4 billion in development cooperation for the three Central Sahel countries Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with the objective to strengthen the capacities of the state in the long term, while providing a short and medium-term response to the needs of the most vulnerable population. The investments covered a broad range of areas: from security; good governance; transparency; public finance; the respect of human rights to basic social services (education, food security and health).

#EUCO: Africa high on agenda

The European Council taking place in Brussels on October 15-16 will also discuss EU-Africa relations. At present the EU and the African countries and cooperate through multiple frameworks such as:
the Cotonou agreement; the joint Africa-EU strategy; and in addition to these frameworks, the Council has adopted three regional strategies for the: Horn of Africa; Gulf of Guinea; and Sahel.
Africa-EU relations also take place through formal dialogues, such as the EU-Africa summits.

At present the centre of attention of the EU leaders will be focused on the post-Cotonou agreement is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers the EU’s relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The #EUCO will discuss, among other things, resetting & deepening the EU- Africa Partnership” Commissioner in charge of international partnerships Jutta Urpilainen wrote on her Twitter micro blog. “We need to invest in the infrastructures and digitalisation – and in education, which, of course, is the key if we want to increase the employment rate.”

Flèche vers la droite”We need to invest in the infrastructures & digitalisation – and in education, which, of course, is the key if we want to increase the employment rate.”

The joint Africa-EU strategy was adopted in 2007 as the formal channel for EU relations with African countries. This strategy was agreed by the African Union and EU institutions, as well as by African and EU countries. It is implemented through periodical action plans. In 2014, EU and African countries agreed on the roadmap for 2014-2017. This roadmap sets out five key priorities and areas for joint action.

MALI: 25 perished in attacks

Islamist militants are suspected to be a group behind the killing 25 people including 13 soldiers in multiple attacks in central Mali, burning down an army base and ambushing troops sent as reinforcements, the army and local authorities said on October 13.

The attacks were the deadliest since the August 18 military coup d’état ousting unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and came just days after scores of jailed jihadists were freed by the interim government in a prisoners for hostages swap.

Nine soldiers were killed in the first attack that took place overnight against a base in Sokoura near the border with Burkina Faso, the army statement reads.

At around 8:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) on Tuesday, on October 13, another three soldiers were killed in an ambush at a bridge near the base as their unit headed to the scene of the first attack, the army statement explains.

Nine militants were killed in clashes with the reinforcement unit and two of their vehicles destroyed by the air force.

In a third assault about 40 minutes later near the town of Bandiagara, gunmen ambushed a commercial truck, killing 12 traders and one soldier, according to Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of nearby Bankass, to which the traders were en route.

A witness said he saw nine bodies at the military base and helped transport 20 wounded to local medical centres.

“They (jihadists) took all the vehicles and burned those they could not take away. The camp is burned,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

A transitional government has been appointed since the military coup. But regional and international powers fear the violence could further destabilise the West African nation and undermine a French-directed military campaign against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the wider Sahel region.

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