UN Secretary-General Guterres vows to pursue support for G5 Sahel anti-terror force

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres pledged on Wednesday, May 30 to pursue support for the G5 Sahel joint anti-terror force during a visit to the mission headquarters in Mali.

Guterres visited the headquarters of the G5 Sahel on the second and final day of a trip to Mali, in the heart of an insurgency in West Africa’s Sahel region.

After praising the G5 for its work, he said, “I was in favor of a stronger mandate” by the U.N. Security Council for the force.

Despite the setback, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali, Minusma, will provide the G5 with all possible support, he said.

“We will put forward a very strong argument for the G5 to have the necessary financial resources and equipment to be effective,” he said.

“We are also requesting [help for] development in the Sahel, because there is no peace without development.”

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed last year to set up the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force that aims to train 5,000 troops to operate alongside France’s operation Barkhane and U.N. peacekeepers.

It was projected to be fully up and running in March, but its deployment has faced delays and the joint force is poorly-equipped.

On May 13, Niger’s defense minister Kalla Moutari said the force was ready to deploy, and the timing was at the discretion of military leaders.

Guterres, as well as France, has been lobbying for the force to speed up its work and pushing for U.N. funding, which would be in addition to technical support from Minusma.

But on May 23, the United States said it opposed a Security Council mandate for the force and direct U.N. funding.

“The United States will not accept any proposal to move these forward in the Security Council,” U.S. political coordinator Amy Tachco told a council meeting in New York.

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

France began a military intervention in Mali in 2013 that evolved into the current Operation Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with a mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region, and around 4,000 French troops are deployed.

About €418 million ($570 million dollars) has been promised for the G5 Sahel, mostly by European countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. support has been bilateral and relatively low – $60 million was promised by then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in October.

Guterres on Tuesday visited Minusma, heaping praise on the force which has suffered the most fatalities of any UN peacekeeping mission.

The U.N.’s Minusma peacekeeping force has around 12,000 military and 1,900 police personnel deployed from 57 U.N. partner nations. It has lost more than 160 people since it deployed in 2013 – a figure that accounts for more than half of U.N. peacekeeping fatalities over this period – and is considered the U.N.’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission.

With reporting from AFP

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