UK, Turkey in agreement on political solution in Libya: Çavuşoğlu

09/07/2020 – Turkey and the U.K. are in agreement on a diplomatic solution in Libya, Turkey’s foreign minister said on July 8.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is paying a one-day working visit to London, said Turkey thinks the only solution in Libya conflict is a political one, adding: “We need to give pace to this political process under the roof of the U.N.” Continuer à lire … « UK, Turkey in agreement on political solution in Libya: Çavuşoğlu »

Libya, UK sign MoU to strengthen governance and decentralization

07/07/2020 – The Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) signed Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen decentralization and sub-national governance with the United Kingdom’s government. Continuer à lire … « Libya, UK sign MoU to strengthen governance and decentralization »

Estonia / Mali: Foreign, defense ministers emphasize need to stabilize Sahel region

13/06/2020 – Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa) on Friday attended a high-level meeting of the Coalition for the Sahel, where they expressed support for the coalition and emphasized the need to stabilize the Sahel region.

The agenda for Friday’s meeting, which was also attended by foreign and defense ministers from France, the U.K-, the U.S. and the G5 Sahel states⁠ — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad⁠ — as well as other parties and representatives operating in the Sahel region, included military operations in the Sahel region, providing security support to the G5 Sahel countries and engaging the international community, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release.
Continuer à lire … « Estonia / Mali: Foreign, defense ministers emphasize need to stabilize Sahel region »

The UK Joins an Unwinnable Fight in the Sahel

13/04/2020 – The UK is set to deploy additional troops to the Sahel, but currently lacks a clear strategy.

The fight against Islamist groups in the Sahel is expanding. Operation Takuba, France’s latest counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, will be made up of special forces from France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Mali, the Netherlands, Niger, Portugal, Sweden and a political support team from the UK. France will deploy roughly 500 troops, the Czech Republic 60, Estonia 50, with remaining countries yet to confirm deployment numbers. Norway, which had indicated its willingness to deploy special forces, has now withdrawn its offer.

Takuba –­ meaning ‘sabre’ in Tuareg ­– will have four priorities: counterterrorism, military capacity-building, redeployment of state authority and development. The mission will operate within the tri-border areas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and be headquartered in the Liptako region, near a French military base in the Nigerien city of Niamey. The operation is designed to eradicate groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which is led by Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi.

The UK is committing 250 troops (from the Light Dragoon Guards and the Royal Anglian Regiment) as part of the UK’s long-range reconnaissance force, deployed alongside the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). According to the International Civil Service Union – an expert body established by the UN General Assembly –  at least 423 UN and associated personnel have been killed in deliberate attacks in Mali as a result of IEDs, rocket and artillery fire, mortar shells, land mines, grenades, suicide attacks, targeted assassinations, and armed ambushes.

An Overcrowded Space

Operation Takuba is designed to improve coordination, equipment and training. The operation is intended to complement an already crowded regional security environment which includes France’s Operation Barkhane, MINUSMA, the regional G5 Sahel and other supporting and training missions, including the US-led Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. The G5 Sahel was established in 2014 but has been operationally active since July 2017. This French-led initiative was designed to facilitate regional coordination and to train 5,000 local troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad so they can combat security threats under a single command.

Despite international and regional efforts, the levels of violence in the Sahel have been rising. On the one hand, old grievances have manifested themselves between nomadic herding and farming communities leading to clashes and the creation of local self-defence and militia groups. On the other hand, new grievances around governance, security and development, perpetuated by the ineffectiveness of the regional and the international responses, has created new grievances which are being used as a recruitment drive by Islamic groups. Despite the presence of national, regional and international militaries and training programmes there is still no strategy to deal with the root causes of the grievances and their associated conflicts.

Local grievances and the Jihadist Fight

Conflict in the region has intensified and evolved. Since 2015, the violence in Mali has spread to Burkina Faso, but there has been no clear international response and the situation has continued to deteriorate, spreading to the borders with neighbouring countries. There is no formal peace process with any of the groups operating in Mali. Groups such as the Macina Liberation Front, an offshoot of Ansar Al-Din, continue to take advantage of the largely unprotected borders. Local militia and Islamist groups like Ansaroul Islam, Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara control vast parts of this area, with no government presence.

Over time the operations of the Islamist groups have evolved from small-scale ambushes with IEDs, to large-scale tactical and coordinated operations. Their activities now include the operation of illicit economies, trafficking, and the control of gold mines.

Clashes between nomadic herders and sedentary farming communities provide a key opportunity for Islamist groups operating within the Sahel. As a strategy, Islamist groups seek to embed themselves in communities and to recruit locally. They establish themselves as actors in local governance systems, offering security, aid and adjudicating disputes that often take months or years for the state to resolve, and providing a channel for disaffected individuals and communities to mobilise in response to grievances. Once recruited, local people provide knowledge, and logistic and operational support.

Challenges facing the UK’s deployment to the Sahel

Since 2000, both the US and the EU – and, in particular, France – have deepened their engagement in Africa, with a focus on security. Many of these security programmes and partnerships have produced mixed results. While they have contained widespread instability, they have not done enough to address the root causes of conflict and instability and have added new layers of insecurity which is now spreading throughout parts of Africa.

The UK government views troop deployment as crucial to fighting terrorism in the region. 30 soldiers from the Royal Marines and 1 Scots Guards are already conducting counterterrorism training with West African troops in Senegal. A further 100 UK personnel currently operate in Mali, from where the UK supports French forces with Chinook helicopters. Yet, to date, the government has failed to demonstrate how the proposed deployment of 250 reconnaissance troops fits into a long-term strategy for peace and security in the region.

Before the UK deploys troops, the government should, therefore, conduct an accurate analysis based on the following questions:

  • Have all means of peace been exhausted? What is its plan for achieving sustainable peace in the region?
  • Will UK troops be adequately equipped? Do the mission commanders understand the regional context enough to have a significant impact and are they willing to learn from their African counterparts? How will UK forces deal with issues of accountability in an urban warfare setting? How will President Donald Trump’s intention to pull US forces out of the Sahel impact UK operations?
  • Should the UK take a different approach? Does arming states in the region without a long-term strategy of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and security sector reform risk contributing to the establishment of authoritarian regimes? Does military support create further dependency, and will this cause African leaders to be less accountable to their populations?
  • Will opportunities to deal with the root causes of the conflict be missed and what impact will this have on issues like migration, reintegration, development and democracy.
  • Finally, as Africa is already seeing an influx of international private security contractors filling its fragile security space, does UK involvement further risk blurring the lines of accountability and increasing the chances for states to use counterinsurgency operations as a mechanism for abusing human rights?

What the UK could do in the Sahel

The current UK strategy in the region – which consists of opening embassies in the Sahel, sending troops and a few Department for International Development projects will not reduce the threat of terrorism. Instead, the UK should consider the following actions:

  • Support international and national instruments of dialogue to bring communities closer and help support the creation of a comprehensive and sustainable peace project. Fund peace programmes and encourage tools like dialogue, local peacebuilding, negotiations and conflict mitigation to be adopted.
  • Create synergy by offering support for existing Africa military operations.
  • Create a pan-Africa–UK initiative, focusing on combatting instability and violence though early-warning response to conflict and fragility, strengthening state capacities, and building strong and sustainable institutions with integrated support from the MoD, FCO, Stabilisation Unit, civil service, Metropolitan police and parliament.
      • Focus on building accountable and strong states through institutional training, intelligence-gathering and capacity-building with embedded accountability mechanisms.
      • Increase programming support for fragile and conflict-affected states through the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund with support from the UN Development Programme.There is a unique opportunity for the UK to support sustainable peace and conflict prevention by moving towards an approach that uses accountability mechanisms to support African troops. On the civilian side, providing and supporting counter-violent extremism programmes and training would help reduce people joining armed groups. The above suggestions would help to stem the overall levels of violence and help place parts of the region onto a path of dialogue and avoid fuelling old and new conflicts.Andrew Tchie| RUSI
        The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not represent those of RUSI or any other institution.

        BANNER IMAGE: Courtesy of TM1972/Wikimedia Commons
        Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali)

Why the UK May Be Sending Troops to Mali

23/03/2020 – The UK government’s decision to deploy an additional 250 soldiers to join the United Nations mission in Mali (known as MINUSMA) might be in Britain’s security interests. Firstly, because it is important to counter the spread of terrorism in Mali, and secondly because supporting France is consistent with the UK’s wider security goals. Such deployments display the UK’s commitment to international security and may well form a critical part of its post-BREXIT diplomacy. Continuer à lire … « Why the UK May Be Sending Troops to Mali »

Libya’s NOC Chief: Oil production will collapse to lowest level since toppling Gaddafi

23/01/2020 – Libya’s oil output will collapse within days to the lowest level since 2011, said National Oil Corporation’s (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanallah as a blockade of its export terminals has forced a rapid shutdown of production and electricity blackouts in parts of the country. Continuer à lire … « Libya’s NOC Chief: Oil production will collapse to lowest level since toppling Gaddafi »

Britain is investigating how Albanian guns were sent to Africa

21/01/2020 – Great Britain has involved the Albanian Prosecution into a series of investigative actions regarding a drug traffic case started by the Office of Customs and Revenues in the UK. Continuer à lire … « Britain is investigating how Albanian guns were sent to Africa »

Boko Haram: Presidency allays fears over Chadian troops withdrawal

06/01/2020 – The Presidency on Sunday asked Nigerians not to panic over the withdrawal of 1,200 Chadian troops from the Lake Chad Basin bordering the country.

It said the withdrawal was in line with the mandate of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), launched on July 1, 2016 and due to end on December 31, 2019.

It said Nigeria will be sending troops to Chad as part of a new concept against the Boko Haram insurgency. Continuer à lire … « Boko Haram: Presidency allays fears over Chadian troops withdrawal »

Nigeria/UK : British Govt Is Nigeria’s ‘Worst Enemy’ – Biafra Leader

03/01/2020 – The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Thursday berated those asking IPOB to go through « appropriate channel » to secure Biafra, accusing them of being hypocrites.

Mazi KANU also alleged that the twelve Northern States allegedly practicing Sharia Law have systematically and unlawfully removed themselves from Nigeria and its Constitution without the Nigerian government questioning their action, adding that Biafra agitation for self determination should equally not be questioned by Nigerian government and its people. Continuer à lire … « Nigeria/UK : British Govt Is Nigeria’s ‘Worst Enemy’ – Biafra Leader »

BP confirms gas resources offshore Mauritania, Senegal

19/12/2019 – UK-based oil and gas company BP has confirmed the potential of gas resources during its three-well drilling campaign offshore Mauritania and Senegal.

BP stated that the GTA-1, Yakaar-2 and Orca-1 appraisal wells drilled in 2019, encountered 160m of net pay. These three wells targeted nine hydrocarbon-bearing zones and found gas in all nine. Continuer à lire … « BP confirms gas resources offshore Mauritania, Senegal »