EU pledges 50 million euros to African counter terror force
Brussels, Feb. 23, 2018 (AltAfrika)-The European Union pledged an additional 50 million euros ($61 million) to a joint counter terror force in West Africa’s vast Sahel region, as leaders gathered Friday in a show of support for the impoverished nations.
The 5,000-strong Sahel force for Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger needs around 400 million euros for its mission along their mostly desert borders, including near Libya — the main jumping-off point for thousands of African migrants bound for Italy.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged around 30 EU and African leaders in Brussels to donate “at the level required for what is at stake and what is needed” as the deadly threat of extremism grows.
“The Sahel is one of Europe’s frontiers. The Sahel is a shield, a dike that must never burst,” said Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. He urged the leaders “to be up to the challenge,” underlining that “security is a global public good.”
Security has deteriorated in the Sahel since 2011, with extremist attacks a routine occurrence, as fighters but also people seeking better lives in Europe move easily through the long, porous borders.
More than 1,100 people have been killed since 2014, nearly 400 of them last year. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is considered the most active of around eight groups operating there.
The 50 million euro pledge comes on top of around 250 million euros that had already been offered, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, some 90 million euros from the EU and its member countries and $60 million from the United States.
But the EU insists it’s not just about security. Brussels says political help and development assistance are vital in a region wracked by extreme poverty, harsh climate, food shortages and health crises.
“We need to support these five countries, especially also to give hope to the next generations so that they have also a future in their own country,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
The EU has invested more than 8 billion euros in development aid in the Sahel for 2014-2020. Part of that is self-interest as the EU seeks to ease its burden by tackling the root causes of migration.
While migrant arrivals through Libya have dropped, more than 120,000 people still left there last year. Many perish in the crossing of the Sahel and Sahara before they can even take their chances in the Mediterranean.