When the Sahel is threatened, Europe and France are threatened”, François Hollande
G5 Sahel Situation
Consequently, in recent years, small arms sales in the black market have flourished abundantly in the Sahel region spurring the growth of radical Islamic networks, like Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Al Shaabab and Al Qaeda, among others.
The Republic of Niger and Chad both located on the edge of the Sahara are one of the poorest countries on Earth. In Niger alone, 45% of the citizens live below the international poverty line. The country has a literacy rate of just 19.1%.
Furthermore, worsening climatic conditions have increased droughts that have affected agriculture yields in the country which depends largely on its agricultural exports. In Niger, agriculture makeup for 37% of its annual GDP. The last major drought which affected the country in 2010 is still being felt.
Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Chad has continually struggled to get on its feet despite being an oil-producing nation. Corruption, Mismanagement of national funds, post-colonial interference and harsh climate has dealt severely with the country. Chad has remained one of the poorest country on Earth till date.
More than half of Chad’s population live in abject poverty. The harsh reality and daily life is a reminder that poor planning, weak implementation and mismanagement destroys a country faster than anything else.
Sahel under threat
Known by defense pundits as ‘AN ARC OF INSTABILITY’ this is a large expanse of landmass plagued by violent extremism in the Sahel, terror groups such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda continually challenge the peace and stability of the region.
Failed government, corruption, foreign interference and spillover from the crises in Libya has spurred a complex web of transnational terror network. In 2012, al Qaeda linked group took control of towns and territories in Northern Mali bringing the Sahel into international limelight.
Ironically, this area was once a bloody battlefield when Libyan forces Invaded Chad in what would be known as the “Toyota War.” France once again came to the aid of its long time ally Chad. The French Air Force even took a step forward by providing aerial protection to Chadian ground forces.
Operation Barkhane Force Composition
- Personnel: 4,500+
- Six fighter jets (Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, Mirage F1)
- 200 armored vehicles (VABs, VBL, ERC 90 Sagaie)
- 20 helicopters (Gazelle LAH, SA 330 Puma and Cougar transport helicopter)
- Ten transport aircrafts
- Three Harfangs drones
- Headquarter and Air assets are based in N’Djamena
- A regional base in Mali housing 1000+ men
- A Special force base in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
- An intelligence and Drone base in Niamey, Niger republic. (300+ men)
British Support for Operation Barkhane
Objective of Operation Barkhane
- Assist the G5 Sahel armed forces in fighting terrorist networks in the Sahel-Sahara region
- Contribute to the prevention of terrorist safe-havens in the region.
Although, the resolve, determination and commitment of the men of France’s Operation Barkhane is unquestioned however, there are various situations which can cause serious problems and hamper the intervention which are.
It is quite inevitable to mention France and Africa without the word Francafrique being recalled concisely.
French relations with Africa revolves round the ‘Françafrique’ concept. In 1958, former French President Charles de Gaulle promised to give independence to French African colonies if he was re-elected, this was primarily due to international pressure and anti-colonization movement in Africa at the time. Not necessarily due to his genuine love for Africa or the continents welfare.
To demonstrate to the world of his ‘goodwill’ President de Gaulle granted independence to many African nations except Algeria whose status was separate. He then clandestinely put his close friend and ally Mr. Jacque Foccart to device a medium to control French colonies even though they were independent.
Although, many historians and political analyst dispute if the concept really existed. However, many former African nations encourages cooperation or pact with its former colonial masters. Such as the former President of Côte d’Ivoire Mr. Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Historically, France has always interfered in the affairs of its former colony states such as in 1977, when France and other countries tried to administer a coup in Benin Republic.
It is unclear whether France inexplicably pursuing a neo-colonialist ‘Francafrique’ agenda or genuinely securing Africa’s Sahel region from rampaging Islamist militants.
- Republic of the Congo
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Algeria, and also other countries like Equatorial Guinea, where France gained influence after its independence from Spain.
While the French efforts and commitment in Africa is commended,there is still much work to be done. Military intervention is usually the first stage in stabilizing a disturbed region however, for true peace and prosperity to be achieved, practical and pragmatic approach that focuses on economic development, political enlightenment, youth education and poverty eradication have to be implemented.
In taking a more comprehensive approach to addressing the security challenges in the Sahel region, a solid socio-political framework devoid of selfish-interest and “exploit-ism” but rather encouraging participation and dialogue of all regional actors to develop a shared value centered on the regions’ interest.
Finally, collaboration between international partners and local authority is vital to sustaining a peaceful solution. Collaboration could include non-military assistance to improve delivery of good governance, engage communities and invest in infrastructural development to dampen the allures of violent extremism.
With no end in sight, would Operation Barkhane heralds France permanent military presence in Africa? Only time will tell…
All pictures were gotten from Reuter