G5 Sahel Joint Force
Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on the activities of the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), or FC-G5S.
Key Recent Developments
The FC-G5S was formed by the countries of the G5 Sahel—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—in 2017, comprising up to 5,000 personnel in order to combat terrorism and drug and human trafficking in the Sahel. On 8 December 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2391, clarifying the ways in which the international community, including the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), is expected to provide support to the FC-G5S. In particular, the resolution requested the Secretary-General to conclude a technical agreement among the UN, the EU and the G5 Sahel states for the provision of operational and logistical support through MINUSMA to the joint force, including medical and casualty evacuation capabilities, access to life-support consumables, and engineering support. The resolution also described how the UN would be reimbursed for its assistance to the force, which is expected to be a temporary measure applying to G5 Sahel troops deployed on Malian territory. It requested a follow-up Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the FC-G5S in five months, followed by reports every six months.
On 23 February, more than 60 countries and multilateral organisations attended the International High Level Conference on the Sahel, held in Brussels. The summit was organised under the auspices of the EU, the UN, the AU and the G5 Sahel countries. Donors increased their pledges for the FC-G5S to a total of 414 million euros, with the EU doubling its contribution from 50 million to 100 million euros. A communiqué by the co-chairs called for renewed support for the political efforts of the G5 Sahel countries to achieve conditions for lasting stability in the region; encouraged full implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali; and announced the conclusion of the technical agreement, signed on the margins of the summit, between the EU Commission, the UN and the G5 Sahel to provide support through MINUSMA to the joint force. The agreement, according to the Secretary-General’s 29 March report on Mali, includes medical and casualty evacuation and engineering and logistical support from MINUSMA, at an estimated cost of 44 million euros over two years. The EU is contributing 10 million euros of this total through a separate financial agreement. Previously, on 8 January, G5 Sahel countries decided to create a trust fund to channel donor funds for the force.
The security situation across the Sahel remains unstable. Mali, which is the epicentre of the crisis, continues to see an intensification of violence. During the first quarter of 2018, the UN reported 63 attacks conducted by terrorist groups. Malian forces were the most heavily targeted, recording 45 soldiers killed. Among international forces, four MINUSMA peacekeepers and two soldiers from France’s regional counter-terrorist Operation Barkhane were killed. In April, the trend appeared to continue, including attacks on MINUSMA camps in Timbuktu and Aguelhok that killed three peacekeepers, while a fourth peacekeeper was killed by an attack on a UN vehicle.
Violence continued in Burkina Faso—in particular, from the Burkinabe group Ansarul Islam in the north—and in parts of Niger, where Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Boko Haram are present. From mid- to late-January, the FC-G5S conducted Operation Pagnali along the border area between Burkina Faso and Mali, the joint force’s second operation since its establishment.
On 2 March armed attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, claimed by JNIM, targeted the defence headquarters and the French embassy. At least 16 people were killed, including nine assailants. The attack on the defence headquarters happened as officials from the G5 countries were to hold a meeting there that day on the FC-G5S.
Resolution 2391 welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts “to give renewed impetus” to implementing the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), first developed in 2013 to address the root causes of the region’s instability and to ensure coordination of international assistance. On 21 March, the Secretary-General appointed Ibrahim Thiaw of Mauritania as his Special Adviser for the Sahel to support Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, in advancing efforts to “recalibrate” the UNISS and a new Sahel Support Plan being developed to trigger investment and mobilize further resources.
On 25 April, a follow up high-level meeting to the Brussels conference was held in New York. Lacroix briefed that MINUSMA was prepared to provide medical evacuation and life support provisions. But the mission could not move forward with its engineering support, which is currently the most urgent activity, such as constructing camps, until more funding than the EU contribution of 10 million euros is predictably secured.
Key Issues and Options
Many of the issues related to the FC-G5S expected to be highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report include:
- progress in the deployment of the FC-G5S;
- international support for the force and possible measures to enhance efficiency of that support given the multiple channels for donors—including the EU’s African Peace Facility, the G5 Trust Fund and bilateral mechanisms;
- implementation of the technical agreement on support provided by MINUSMA to the FC-G5S, an assessment of the impact on MINUSMA, which is struggling to fill its own needs, and development of benchmarks that would indicate the level of operationalisation of the FC-G5S at which MINUSMA’s logistical and operational support may be gradually withdrawn; and
- challenges encountered by the joint force and possible measures for further consideration.
Steps taken to ensure that FC-G5S operations are conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law is a related issue to be covered in the Secretary-General’s report. This includes implementation by G5 Sahel states of a “compliance framework”, the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy on UN support to non-UN security forces, and ways to mitigate any adverse impact of the military operations of the FC-G5S on the civilian population, including on women and children.
Another significant issue is the importance of complementing military efforts with initiatives to address grievances of local populations and development challenges that have enabled the rise of terrorist groups in the Sahel. These include initiatives such as the UNISS and the French-German-EU Alliance for the Sahel.
Council follow-up action is likely to depend on the recommendations in the upcoming report of the Secretary-General, who has appeared keen to ensure more predictable and reliable funding for the FC-G5S. Council members may seek to adopt a resolution that would mandate a support package for the FC-G5S if the Secretary-General reiterates the options from his October 2017 report, including those that implied establishing a dedicated UN support office financed through assessed contributions.
Before agreeing on resolution 2391, discussions about whether the UN was able to support the FC-G5S divided the Council. The Secretary-General laid out several options to provide additional support through the UN (including mandating support packages or adjusting MINUSMA’s mandate), but the US and others preferred to assist the force bilaterally and warned against increasing the responsibilities of an already over-stretched mission. While resolution 2391 established some multilateral support for the FC-G5S, some members—including France, which has championed the joint force—believe there is still a case for providing further support. That support could be both financial and political, including through a Chapter VII Council mandate. The US still takes the position as stated by Ambassador Nikki Haley at the adoption of resolution 2391, that its agreeing to MINUSMA’s provision of logistical support is the extent of any support role that the UN should play, and before expanding this, the Council should see how the arrangement works.
France has acted as the penholder on Council products on the G5 Sahel joint force.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE SAHEL
|Security Council Resolutions|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2391||This was a resolution on MINUSMA support to the G5 Sahel joint force.|
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2359||This welcomed the deployment of the G5 Sahel joint force.|
|29 March 2018 S/2018/273||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Mali.|
|16 October 2017 S/2017/869||This was a Secretary-General’s report on the JG5 Sahel joint force.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|2 March 2018 SC/13234||This was a press statement condemning the terrorist attacks which took place the same day in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, against the army headquarters and the French Embassy.|