November 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 October 2021
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Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force

Expected Council Action

In November, the Council is expected to hold its biannual briefing, followed by consultations, on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S), which Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger (G5 Sahel) established in 2017 to fight terrorist groups in the region and transnational organised crime.

Key Recent Developments

The security situation in the Sahel remains dire. Terrorist groups continue deadly attacks against security forces and civilians and increasingly threaten West African coastal states. The insecurity has also fuelled intercommunal violence. Against this backdrop, Mali and Chad are conducting political transitions to restore constitutional order following two coups d’état in Mali in August 2020 and May, and the seizure of power by Chad’s military after President Idriss Déby died in April while fighting rebels who had invaded from Libya.

The epicentre of terrorist violence is the Liptako-Gourma region—the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Chad and Niger also continue to deal with the threat of terrorist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin. Burkina Faso experienced its deadliest attack during its five-year jihadist insurgency when gunmen, many of whom were child soldiers, killed at least 138 civilians on the night of 4 to 5 June in Solhan village in Yagha province. Between April and the end of August, the insecurity created 275,000 newly displaced persons, raising the number in Burkina Faso to more than 1.42 million. Meanwhile, in Niger, Islamist armed groups have killed over 420 civilians and displaced tens of thousands in western Niger since January, according to an 11 August Human Rights Watch report.

Following Mali’s 24 May coup d’état, France announced that it would draw down its 5,100-member regional counter-terrorism force, Operation Barkhane, to about 2,500 to 3,000 troops, while seeking to expand the role of the Takuba Task Force (Takuba, which is composed of European special forces based in Mali under the command of Barkhane, became operational last year.)On 21 August, Chad announced that it was recalling 600 soldiers from the 1,200-member contingent that it deployed earlier this year as part of the FC-G5S to the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. G5 Sahel defence ministers met in Niamey from 31 August to 1 September in light of Barkhane’s planned drawdown, agreeing to better pool resources and reassess the strategic concept of operations of the FC-G5S.

Media reports in September said that Mali’s transitional authorities were close to reaching a deal to allow the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, to deploy to Mali. Speaking at the General Assembly on 25 September, transitional Prime Minister Choguel Maiga described France’s decision to draw down Barkhane, which includes closing three bases in northern Mali, as “abandoning us, mid-flight to a certain extent,” adding that it “leads us to explore pathways and means to better ensure our security autonomously, or with other partners”. The remarks reflected the rising tensions between Mali’s authorities and France since the coup in May, in which Colonel Assimi Goïta became transitional president. In addition to France, the US, Germany, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), among others, have publicly warned Mali against making a deal with the security company.

A Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council, dated 4 October, set out options to increase support for the FC-G5S and provided an update on implementation of the human rights due diligence policy (HRDDP) required of non-UN entities that receive UN support. The UN submitted the letter in accordance with resolution 2584, which renewed the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in June. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to provide “detailed and operational options” for supporting the FC-G5S, “including through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms and organisations, other than MINUSMA”.

The Secretary-General proposed two options.One is a dedicated UN office to provide logistical support to joint force operations; the Secretary-General said in his letter that he preferred this option, which he has recommended since 2017, as the most effective approach to providing sustainable and predictable support to the FC-G5S. According to his letter, this option would entail expanding support currently provided by MINUSMA (life consumables and medical evacuation within the borders of Mali) to cover engineering, maintenance, communications and information technology services, transportation of cargo, medical supplies, and medical and casualty evacuation in all areas of FC-G5S operations. The office could be funded through UN assessed contributions or voluntary funding. It could either be designed with a heavier reliance on UN-provided service delivery that entails a greater UN staff footprint, or it could maximise the use of outsourcing, with a lighter UN footprint. Its headquarters would be in Niamey, with other offices in Nouakchott, Bamako,Ouagadougou and N’Djamena.

The other option is to establish an “Advisory Office to the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat”. This would supply technical and expert assistance to enhance the FC-G5S’s self-sufficiency by providing advice in the areas of political affairs, human rights, and operational and administrative planning, including on modalities for adequate pooling and sharing of resources. Such an office would exclude logistical and material support and would be modelled on a Department of Peacekeeping Operations-led AU peacekeeping support team, which advised the AU on the planning and management of AU peace operations and was eventually subsumed by the UN Office to the AU. The Secretary-General’s letter suggests that an advisory office could include a joint UN/AU planning team.

From 23 to 25 October, the Council undertook a visiting mission to the Sahel. It travelled first to Mali to assess how the Council can best support the completion of Mali’s political transition, according to press elements that Council members issued at the start of their visit. Members further stressed the need to implement Mali’s 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and to stabilise central Mali. In Niamey, the Council met with Nigerien authorities to discuss security, development and humanitarian trends in the Sahel.The Secretary-General’s proposal for a UN support office figured prominently in these discussions, which the Council also addressed with the force commandeer and other representatives of the FC-G5S.

Key Issues and Options

Taking stock of progress in making the FC-G5S fully operational has been a key issue during these biannual briefings. For this upcoming session, a particular focus for the Council will be considering how to increase support for the FC-G5S, based on the Secretary-General’s proposed options. Council members could start negotiating a resolution to establish a UN support office providing logistical support to the FC-G5S or an advisory office to the G5 Sahel.

The FC-G5S’s compliance with international humanitarian law and the HRDDP, which is necessary for MINUSMA or other UN support, is another key issue. As described in the Secretary-General’s 4 October letter, difficulties in implementing the HRDDP include scarce information on the impact of FC-G5S operations and a lack of communication, necessary to enable the UN to differentiate operations conducted in a national capacity and those conducted under the command of the FC-G5S.

The need to complement security initiatives with stronger approaches to addressing structural causes of instability, such as underdevelopment, poor governance, and climate change, such as the UN’s Sahel strategy and the G5 Sahel Priority Investment Programme, is an additional key issue.

Council Dynamics

The Council is divided over how to support the FC-G5S. Niger and France are strong advocates for establishing a UN office that provides logistical support, citing it as the best way to facilitate more predictable and sustainable funding for the joint force’s operations. The UK and US have opposed the idea. They have objected to using UN assessed contributions for non-UN missions and are not convinced that such a support office can be more effective than bilateral military support. They have also raised concerns, that some other members appear to share, about establishing a UN operation to support counter-terrorism operations which would compromise UN peacekeeping principles and put the UN in the position of providing support to the FC-G5S despite its reported human rights violations.


Security Council Letter
4 October 2021S/2021/850 This was a Secretary-General’s letter on options to increase support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force.