EU, France pledge 1.3B eu­ros in anti-ter­ror aid for Sa­hel

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

NOUAK­CHOTT, Mau­ri­ta­nia: The Euro­pean Union and France Thurs­day said that their to­tal in­vest­ment in devel­op­ment fund­ing aimed at pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ism in African Sa­hel coun­tries would rise to 1.3 bil­lion eu­ros ($1.5 bil­lion), as the re­gion strug­gles with ex­trem­ism 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 mil­i­tant re­volt that be­gan with a Tuareg sep­a­ratist upris­ing in north­ern Mali in 2012.

The EU’s In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sioner Neven Mim­ica told a con­fer­ence in the Mau­ri­ta­nian cap­i­tal that the bloc’s Sa­hel Pri­or­ity In­vest­ment Pro­gram “now to­tals al­most 800 mil­lion eu­ros,” with an ex­tra 122 mil­lion eu­ros an­nounced Thurs­day.

France will in­vest 500 mil­lion eu­ros for the “pri­or­i­ties” of the G5 Sa­hel, added French For­eign Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian, ex­plain­ing that the coun­try will add an ex­tra 220 mil­lion eu­ros to the 280 mil­lion eu­ros 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 needed 1.9 bil­lion eu­ros to help them fund pro­jects in bor­der re­gions vul­ner­a­ble to ex­trem­ism. They them­selves pro­vide 13 per­cent of that sum.

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

Ex­trem­ism in the re­gion has been fu­eled by the chaos that en­gulfed Libya in 2011, the Is­lamist takeover of north­ern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in north­ern

The coun­tries will fund pro­jects in re­gions vul­ner­a­ble to ex­trem­ism

Nige­ria. The ex­trem­ists were largely driven out of Mali in a French­led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion launched in Jan­uary 2013.

The fledg­ling African re­gional force fight­ing mil­i­tants, backed by France, is also suf­fer­ing from 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 on the Sa­hara’s south­ern fringe.

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. –

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