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FOE Online Debate on Security and Security Development in the Sahel

Friends of Europe in Collaboration with Centre for Democracy and Development Online Debate on Security and Security Development in the Sahel

On the 12th of May 2021, Friends of Europe, in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development, held an online debate titled ‘Security and Security development in the Sahel’. The debate brought together high-level politicians and experts from Europe and Africa, including Joao Gomes Cravinho, Portuguese Minister of Defence; Fatoumata Haidara, West and Central Africa Sahel Director of Plan international; Irina Schoulgin Nyoni, Ambassador Deputy Director General and Head of Africa Department at Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Claire Raulin, French PSC Ambassador; and Irchard Razaaly, Head of West Africa at the European External Action Service.

The Context

The Sahel region has been long plagued with issues of insecurity that have seen the region transform into a haven for terrorists.  Countries along the Sahel face similar challenges: poor governance, poor economic development, rapid population growth, widespread human rights abuses and climate change that continue to impact negatively on their security.

European Union Interventions

The EU continues to support interventions across the Sahel that aim to promote peace and security. So far, the EU remains the biggest foreign donor with over 8.6bn Euros spent on security initiatives in the Sahel. The EU has also been involved in military operations, development projects, diplomatic missions and continues to support grassroots efforts. Despite this, the extent of the success of its interventions has been questioned. This has made it imperative to reevaluate the work the EU and France are doing in the Sahel.

About the debate

The online debate focused on the potential benefits of a change of strategy in a bid to have long-lasting peace and stability in the Sahel region. The discussions followed the launch of a report by Friends of Europe’s Senior Fellow and European Affairs Editor at Politico, Paul Taylor.

The report titled ‘Disentangling the peace and security landscape: Europe and the Sahel’, looked at the influence of the EU and France in the Sahel and stressed that the frequent deployment of resources from the EU to the Sahel appears to have undermined the capacity for local solutions to the region’s challenges.

The report emphasized that a ‘tough love approach’ would have greater benefit as it will aim to promote locally-driven solutions through strengthening community-led traditional peacebuilding structures. About 48% of participants all agreed that there is a need for a phased exit from the Sahel in the next 5 years. Rather than provide financial support or supporting military presence, it is best to focus on providing intelligence training for the armed forces.

Further recommendations were made as follows:

  • France and the EU must switch priorities from counter-terrorism to a pro-governance strategy
  • The EU should support national and local dialogue, including with armed rebels and work with the civil society and local communities to promote mediation
  • France should agree to a timetable for drawing down its military presence, handing over ground operations to the G5 Sahel joint force and reformed national defense and internal security forces