Factfile on G5 Sahel force

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G5 Defence Academy (Ludovic Marin/Pool/ AFP)
G5 Defence Academy (Ludovic Marin/Pool/ AFP)

The G5 Sahel force is designed to pool troops from five West African countries fighting jihadism and lawlessness in a sprawling region shaken by Islamist insurgents and trafficking.

Following is a factfile on the G5 Sahel anti-terror force:

What is it? 

The G5 Sahel force is designed to pool troops from five West African countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), fighting jihadism and lawlessness in a sprawling region shaken by Islamist insurgents and trafficking.

The goal is to create a force of 5 000 troops, which would operate alongside France's 4 000 troops and roughly 12 000 UN peacekeepers in Mali.

A headquarters has already been set up in Sevare, Mali, overseeing three operational commands - West, based in Mauritania; Centre, in Niger; and East, in Chad.

The force would be divided into seven battalions, two each for Mali and Niger and one each for Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Their members would retain their national uniforms.

Troops would be authorised to intervene over territory up to 50km from joint borders.

Origins

The "G5" countries took an initial decision to create a regional force at a meeting in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena in November 2015.

But few concrete steps were taken until 2017, after the security situation deteriorated in the previously spared central parts of Mali, which borders on Niger and Burkina Faso, both highly susceptible to attacks by armed Islamic extremists.

The jihadist violence is frequently interwoven with older conflicts of a communal nature and underlying ethnic tensions.

The regional plan took a boost on July 2, 2017, at a G5 summit in the Malian capital of Bamako, where French President Emmanuel Macron pledged support for the initiative, leading international efforts to raise funds.

Problems

The joint force is behind in its mission, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted in a report in May, which said the regional security situation "continues to worsen".

The force so far has carried out three sweeps, the latest either side of the border between Niger and Burkina Faso.

It has yet to reach its full capacity of 5 000 men, which was scheduled for March, although in a key "tri-border" area, a hotspot where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet, two-thirds of designated troops were in place, the UN said.

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It blamed the slow deployment on "major deficiencies" in training and equipment, as well as overstretch among G5 Sahel security forces.

The international community has pledged around $420m in support, but the funds also are late in being disbursed, Niger Foreign Minister Kalla Ankourao said on June 18.

The force has also come under the shadow of alleged rights abuses. Last week, the UN said Malian soldiers within the force had "summarily" executed 12 civilians in a market in central Mali in May in retaliation for the death of a soldier.

In the meantime, the G5 force has itself become a target - two soldiers and a civilian were killed in a suicide car bomb attack at its headquarters last Friday.

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