Picture: 123RF/RAINER LESNIEWSKI
Picture: 123RF/RAINER LESNIEWSKI

Nouakchott — The EU and France say their total investment in development funding aimed at preventing terrorism in Sahel countries will rise to €1.3bn, as the region struggles with jihadism and lawlessness.

The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim since a jihadist revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012.

The EU’s international co-operation and development commissioner, Neven Mimica, told a conference in the Mauritanian capital that the bloc’s Sahel Priority Investment Programme “now totals almost €800m”,with an extra €122m announced on Thursday.

France will invest €500m for the “priorities” of the G5 Sahel, said French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, explaining that the country will add an extra €220m to the €280m already pledged.

“Half of this sum is for projects already planned or under way. The other half will be awarded in a speedy way over the next two years to enable you to meet your priorities,” Le Drian said.

The five Sahel countries told the meeting they need €1.9bn to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to jihadists. They themselves provide 13% of that sum.

Governments hope that with an array of projects, including building schools, health centres and improving access to water, they can prevent communities from falling under the influence of extremists.

Jihadism in the region has been fuelled by the chaos that engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

The extremists were largely driven out of Mali in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

The France-backed fledgeling African regional force fighting jihadists is also suffering from a lack of funding, and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in its operations.

As well as fighting terrorism it tackles smuggling and illegal immigration networks that operate in these vast, remote areas.

A devastating attack in June on the force’s headquarters in Mali, claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, prompting a brief halt in operations.

AFP