French President Emmanuel Macron has recently met Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou in Paris to discuss the situation in the Sahel region. President Macron called on the international community to boost financing available for the region to fight the terrorist and jihadist threat. He said money “now needs to be disbursed” to allow the five-nation regional force, known as the G5 Sahel, to keep working.
Mr. Macron added that the European Union started financing the joint force of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and that it will also provide equipment in coming weeks. The French leader specifically called out other donors like Saudi Arabia to meet their financial commitments, though Niger’s leader expressed his concern over the financial sustainability of the force. Earlier in 2018, international donors pledged 414 million euros to help the five Sahel countries set up the force and counter the deadly jihadism in the area.
Mr. Issoufou said that talks were ongoing with the aim of achieving the release of two humanitarian workers who were abducted in Niger. Jeffery Woodke, an American kidnapped in 2016 and Jorg Lang, a German kidnapped in April this year, are alive. President Issoufou said that “we have some news, we know they are alive. We keep working on creating conditions for their release.” While authorities do not know their exact whereabouts, one hypothesis is that they are being detained in northern Mali.
France currently has around a 4,000-strong force, the Barkhane, in the region, operating across the Sahara and the Sahel. Its main job has been to tackle the jihadist groups operating mostly in the very north of the Sahara. Another force present in the region is the United Nation’s MINUSMA that is not active fighting terrorists but instead focuses on achieving an internal Malian peace agreement. Meanwhile, the G5 force has another role – to tackle locally rooted jihadist groups, particularly in the borderland.