A strengthened Sahel G5 Force could favour exit strategy for French troops in Mali. Photo by Fred Marie.

Support to Sahel force can provide stability in the region

The increased support to the cross-border G5 Force can be of great importance for stabilizing Sahel and parts of North Africa, but the key to curbing slave trade in Libya lies in reforming the country's security sector, according to Mikael Eriksson, security researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute.
The systematic abuses of African migrants in Libya have been known to the outside world for a long time, but when CNN, some weeks ago, reported from the country, with strong images from a slave-like market, it sparked strong reactions around the world. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, proposed military and police attacks against slave traders in Libya. Yesterday, Macron met with the leaders of the five countries that constitute the Sahel Region's so-called G5 force – Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad – in a Paris summit to discuss the security situation in North Africa and the Sahel region.
At the meeting, Macron downplayed the demands for military and police attacks and instead highlighted the importance of supporting the countries in the region in building up their own military capabilities. An agreement has been presented, to provide money and other support, co-financed by among others Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to the G5 countries so that they can afford to set up a cross-border military force to fight the terrorism spreading in parts of the desert regions of the Sahel.
Mikael Eriksson has been following the work on the G5 force, since it was launched a few years ago. He sees a major problem with the ongoing militarization in the region, as well as the more specific financial issues associated with the G5 force.
”The G5 Force had its first operation this fall, in October-November, but it did not produce any major results,” he said in an interview in Sveriges Radio.
According to Mikael Eriksson, the lack of funding has been the biggest problem for the G5 force and he believes that yesterday's decision can be of great importance for the fight against terrorism. But he also points out that it is important to keep in mind, that behind the decision to support the G5 force, there are also other objectives at stake than fighting terrorism.
“Behind the French support, lies an interest to push back the migration flow towards Europe”.
“There is one more dimension, which is important to mention in this context; the French force that, since several years, has been running military operations in Mali, is now seeking an exit strategy. The strengthening of the G5 Force might open a possibility for France to withdraw its troops without leaving a security vacuum behind. France can thus achieve several interests at the same time”.
Concerning the international community's possibilities to improve the situation for the migrants in Libya, Mikael Eriksson points out that its most important task is to reform the security sector.
“Establishing a legitimate national army, under the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, is crucial for the future of Libya, an army that can permanently secure the country's borders, and thus also to address the vulnerable situation of migrants. The UN has a very important role to play here. At the same time, it is the longer-term investments in the area that can yield lasting results, for example support for job creation programs, healthcare, and education,” he says. 
Listen to the full interview with Mikael Eriksson at Sveriges Radio’s website (it is in Swedish and begins at 25:10 in the audio clip).
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