Group of Five for the Sahel
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council expects a briefing on the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) or FC-G5S, which Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger decided to establish in February 2017 to combat terrorist and criminal groups in the region. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief. G5 Sahel Permanent Secretary Maman Sidikou is also expected to participate, among other briefers.
Key Recent Developments
The operationalisation of the FC-G5S continues to experience challenges while insecurity persists across much of the Sahel, with a notable deterioration in Burkina Faso.
On 19 May, elements of the Malian armed forces under the command of FC-G5S reportedly killed at least 12 civilians in retaliation for the killing of one of their own soldiers in Boulikessi, in the Mopti region of central Mali. The incident was investigated by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which concluded that soldiers assigned to FC-G5S had “summarily and/or arbitrarily executed 12 civilians”, according to a 26 June statement. The report of this inquiry was sent to the Mali government. The Malian Ministry of Defense announced the opening of a criminal investigation into the matter. On 5 September, the prosecutor of Mopti requested MINUSMA’s assistance in the investigation.
A major setback for the FC-G5S occurred on 29 June when the joint force headquarters in Sévaré, Mali was targeted in a complex suicide car bomb and gunfire attack. Two Malian soldiers were killed and 11 personnel of the joint force were injured, including five from Chad, four from Niger and two from Mali. The Al-Qaida-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) claimed responsibility. Following the incident, General Hanena Ould Sidi of Mauritania was appointed force commander of the joint force on 12 July, replacing General Didier Dacko of Mali. The headquarters were temporarily relocated to Bamako, and joint force operations were halted. Since being established last year, the FC-G5S has conducted six operations, all of which were carried out before the headquarters attack.
There was progress in establishing the police component of the FC-G5S with the appointment on 7 August of Abdellahi Sidi Aly as the police adviser. As noted in the Secretary-General’s 25 September report on Mali, the police component is important for promoting greater accountability, rule of law, and prevention and response to human rights violations.
MINUSMA support for the FC-G5S, which was mandated on a reimbursable basis by resolution 2391 in December 2017, has remained limited. MINUSMA has only received the EU’s commitment of 10 million euros made this past February, out of the 44 million dollars two-year budget for its logistical and operational support to forces of the FC-G5S deployed on Malian territory.
An independent strategic review of MINUSMA, some of the findings of which were contained in the Secretary-General’s 6 June report on Mali, flagged the challenges placed on MINUSMA to support non-UN security actors, which also contribute to the perception that the UN mission engages in counter-terrorism actions. The review underlined the need for a clear regional political framework, including for support to the implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali by leveraging the influence of the country’s neighbours on the signatory parties. The authors of the review concurred with the Secretary-General’s previous recommendation that support for the FC-G5S be provided through an assessed contributions-based support package, distinct from MINUSMA.
On 19 May, the EU extended the mandate of the EU Training Mission in Mali for two years. In doing so, it also expanded the mandate to include providing advice and training support to the FC-G5S.
Overall, security continues to deteriorate across much of the Sahel. The situation has worsened particularly in Burkina Faso. For the past two years, violent attacks were confined mostly to the country’s north. Since the end of 2017, the number of people displaced due to violence in the north increased from 5,000 to almost 39,000 by mid-October, according to figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Since mid-year, armed groups have started attacking military and civilian sites in Burkina Faso’s east, with attacks also being recorded in the west.
Key Issues and Options
Progress towards bringing the FC-G5S to full operational capacity is a key issue. This includes ensuring the FC-G5S is provided with sufficient and predictable resources to be an effective instrument in restoring stability in the Sahel. The Secretary-General has continued to advocate for establishing a UN support office, independent of MINUSMA and using assessed contributions, that could deliver a support package to the FC-G5S across its entire area of operations, similar to the UN Support Office in Somalia set up for the AU Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM. He is expected to reiterate this recommendation in his forthcoming report due by 8 November.
Other challenges face the FC-G5S, however, including its shortfalls in manpower, training, equipment; the condition of bases; issues of command and control; and different funding mechanisms. Promoting and ensuring that the FC-G5S complies with international humanitarian law, which is necessary for UN support and critical for effective counter-terrorism, is a related issue.
A continuing option before the Council is to adopt a resolution that establishes a dedicated UN support office to deliver a support package for the FC-G5S, as recommended by the Secretary-General. Council members may wait to pursue this option until the force achieves full operational capacity and is making use of funding that donors have promised.
To encourage such progress, Council members may issue a statement: urging G5 countries to fulfil commitments such as fully deploying required forces; reiterating the need for donors to disburse pledged funds; and stressing the importance of accompanying military efforts with political and development initiatives, and governance reforms.
Another ongoing issue is integrating the force within a larger political and institutional framework and strategy, which was highlighted in the Secretary-General’s last report on the G5 Sahel. There is a need to more effectively link the G5 Sahel joint force with the G5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat, headquartered in Mauritania, and its development-related initiatives, and to create greater coherence among G5 countries, which hold divergent views on the role of the FC-G5S. Likewise, there is a need to address governance and security sector reforms in G5 countries. A political approach also involves securing the support of neighbouring countries for the implementation of the Malian peace agreement.
Discussions about whether the UN should support the FC-G5S financially have divided the Council. While resolution 2391 established some multilateral support for the FC-G5S, some members—including France, which has championed the joint force—believe there remains a case for providing further support in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendations. That support could be both financial and political, including through a Chapter VII Council mandate. Since last year’s divisive negotiations on this, France has sought to take a more incremental approach and allow time for the force to become more operational before reviving debate on such a resolution. The US has objected to proposals that could incur UN assessed contributions and prefers to assist the force bilaterally. It has taken the position that last December’s agreement on MINUSMA’s provision of support is the extent of any support role that the UN should play, and before expanding it, the Council should see how the arrangement works.
France is the penholder on the G5 Sahel joint force.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE G5 SAHEL
|Security Council Resolutions
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2391
|This resolution outlined the ways in which MINUSMA is expected to support the G5 Sahel joint force and described how the UN will be reimbursed for its assistance.
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2359
|This welcomed the deployment of the G5 Sahel force.
|25 September 2018 S/2018/866
|This was a report on Mali, including information on the G5 Sahel joint force.
|6 June 2018 S/2018/541
|This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on Mali, which included some of the findings and recommendations put forward by the recently completed independent strategic review of the mission.
|8 May 2018 S/2018/432
|This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on the G5 Sahel joint force.
|Security Council Press Statements
|29 June 2018 SC/13407
|This condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack on the headquarters of the FC-G5S in Sévaré.
|23 May 2018 SC/13353
|Council members encouraged G5 States to achieve the full operational capacity of the force as soon as possible and insisted on the critical need for generating support through the swift disbursement of all pledges by donors.