The director of the Timbuktu Institute-African center for Peace Studies and coordinator of the observatory of radicalisms and religious conflicts in Africa (Orcra), Bakary Sambe, analyzes, in this interview, with the light of the researcher’s lucidity, the last G5 summit Sahel which was held in Ndjamena on February 16.
How do you read the last G5 Sahel summit which was held in NDjamena and extended to several other countries in the region, the European Union and Arab States?
The Ndjamena Summit was a decisive moment of diplomatic leap denoting a new spirit of openness and an awareness of the transnationality of the terrorist phenomenon and the need for an inclusive approach. The opening up to certain countries such as Morocco and Senegal proves a new desire to involve those who until now were considered far from the epicenters of terrorism in the Sahel. Certain political developments in neighboring countries have meant that the relative ostracism towards Senegal has diminished and that its possible contribution and that of its army could weigh on the balance of power against terrorist groups. The fact that France, despite its status as an essential partner power in the region, is increasingly seeking the sincere support of European peers is the sign of a new era which will be that of strategic coalitions. This is not, as some think, a signal of the start of a withdrawal but of a new type of commitment wanting to avoid the unsuccessful image of a former colonial power despite the attempts at break introduced by Macron since the Ouagadougou speech. But the Pau Summit has, all the same, left some aftereffects and clouds that could perhaps dissipate during the Montpellier Summit to come. As for the Arab countries’ interest in the Sahel, this is nothing new if we know that the Gulf powers are already waging a battle of influence, even in the military domain, in the continuity of what is being played currently on the Libyan ground so still slippery and unstable.
Emmanuel Macron ruled out any decline in French military personnel in the region immediately despite anti-French sentiment in Africa. What is the basis for this decision?
Contrary to what one might believe, the Sahel has never been an easy question for France, which must constantly manage the emergency and history at the same time. I am not at all surprised by the reaffirmation of a French military presence in the Sahel. Despite a wind of nationalism and anti-imperialism, which blew through the Sahel during a coup d’état in Mali – which would have made the dream of the end of “French influence” a reality – the Malian reality , it remains unchanged and worrying. She was drowned in the brief jubilation aroused by the fall of a shaken, delegitimized “hangman”, while the immediate but perhaps improbable arrival of Russians or other actors was scrutinized. The reality is that France remains a key player in the Sahelian game. As much as France remains a “great African power” in terms of its influence and its geostrategic interests, the countries of the region, especially Mali, would not gain in terms of security if this ally managed to withdraw; which is unlikely, moreover. Emmanuel Macron is, desperately, in search of an efficient pedagogy on the Sahel with his French fellow citizens, far from the realities on the ground and who seem not to find themselves in this clash of principles and the need to combine political reasons and diplomatic means. Whatever the pressure from the streets, French political elites of all stripes, despite the demagoguery of some, have always been aware of the importance of Africa for their country, its economy and its influence. Is it a fundamentally anti-French feeling or rather the blunders of a new French political class which has lost its connection with a field which, however, was not necessarily unfavorable to it? However, the response of the terrorist groups, which was quick to follow the French President’s statement at the end of the Ndjamena summit, does not augur an imminent stabilization of the region if we rushed further into the all-military having resulted in the observed failure of Barkhane. The announced Takuba force, and still far from being supported by other European countries, will she experience a different outcome? I am not convinced of this if we do not change the paradigm.
President Macky Sall took part in the Ndjamena summit and Dakar supported the G5 Sahel to the tune of one billion FCfa. What is the scope? Can we consider seeing Senegal join the G5 Sahel?
This positioning of Senegal stems from a perfect awareness of the transnationality of the terrorist phenomenon and of the progressive overflow of the Malian epicenter, especially with the politico-institutional instability which caused the abandonment of strategic positions by the special forces in power in Bamako. . In this context marked by not very reassuring signals at the Senegalese-Malian and Mauritanian borders, not to mention the effective regionalization of the terrorist threat, Senegal cannot continue in the reactive strategy of building national resilience in a regional context of instability. chronic. It was necessary to move on to the proactive “containment” of risks and to the strengthening of anticipation mechanisms, including external and internal intelligence, which is being modernized. Even without effectively integrating the G5 Sahel, which will necessarily evolve towards a broader framework, Senegalese counterterrorism needs all sources and cannot do without regional frameworks for cooperation and information sharing within the framework of pooling which is essential. The presence of President Macky Sall at the last decisive summit in Ndjamena reflects a certain realism and an awareness of the need for management of security emergencies without losing sight of the issue of prevention in the face of bringing together groups taking advantage of the vacuum left by special forces which made the Kayes region the last lock to our borders. Beyond the symbolic financial support for the efforts of the G5 Sahel, Senegal, already quite present militarily in Mali within the framework of the Minusma, reaffirms, in fact, one of the founding principles of its diplomacy, namely African solidarity, but also gives a strong signal by this decisive turning point in its commitment against terrorism which is no longer perceived as a distant phenomenon but an immediate danger.
A jihadist cell, which is said to be linked to the Katiba Macina group, has been dismantled in Kidira. Four suspected suspects have been arrested. What analysis do you make of it?
The Senegalese-Malian border is a concern now assumed by our security and defense forces who have integrated the idea of a battle in the East to be won. It is a paradigm shift. This case of a terrorist cell, which would be dismantled, hardly surprises knowing that, in early February, an international report made public reported this incursion from Mali. A recent study by the Timbuktu Institute shows that the Eastern region still benefits from a certain resilience, although some concerns call for a holistic approach beyond security. The real challenge for Senegal is to prevent the groups that will inevitably approach from finding local incubators with the communities, whether they are the ally of the security and defense forces, at least. only for human intelligence, and not terrorist groups who would like to exploit the frustrations and marginalizations that generate radicalization. This will require even more massive investments to strengthen the sense of national belonging. The battle for the East will not be won without the conquest of hearts which seems to me more lasting than the submission of bodies and the all-security which has never defeated terrorism elsewhere.
With the sun
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