West Africa security forum opens amid concerns over G5 Sahel force
A two-day African security forum opened in Dakar on Monday amid concerns about funding for a much-trumpeted initiative to bind five Sahel countries into an anti-terror force.
Less than a quarter of the roughly €400m (R6.5bn) pledged for the G5 Sahel force has been forthcoming, French defence minister Florence Parly said on Sunday.
"At the moment, (pledges) are materialising very slowly." Only "10 to 25 percent of the funds" have been disbursed, she said.
The G5 Sahel is a French-backed scheme conceived in 2015 to roll back jihadism and lawlessness in five states on the Sahara's southern rim.
Bringing together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, it aims to become a 5,000-man joint force to restore authority in areas grappling with jihadists and brutal gangs.
But the project, which brings together five of the world's poorest and most fragile countries, has run into problems of financing, poor equipment and lack of training.
In February, an international donors' conference in Brussels pledged about €420m. Saudi Arabia made the biggest single promise, totalling €100m in the form of equipment, but it has yet to be delivered, Parly said.
Senegalese president Macky Sall, whose country is one of the most politically stable in Africa, said that "strong and resilient states" were the key to lasting security.
Parly, in her speech, said security and development "are two sides of the same coin".
"To want security without humanitarian aid would be absurd and dangerous. To want respect for rights, property, access to education without being willing to ensure security and peace would be vain," she said.
Since late last year, the G5 Sahel has carried out only six operations, with three more in the works. It also has yet to win over civilians who fear retribution from the rebels if they provide support.