Terrorism is spreading in the Sahel region, and the African Union member states will be addressing the situation in a “comprehensive” manner, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui said on Monday, February 11.
“Terrorism is expanding,” Chergui told journalists during a press conference in Addis Ababa. “Almost on a daily basis, Burkina Faso now is facing criminal and terrorist attacks not only from its border with Mali but also in the east, with the border on Niger. The whole West Africa now is on alert.”
The region is seeing “increasing numbers of terrorist movements” who attack civilian populations and institutions, Chergui noted. At the same time, problems between ethnic groups, as well as clashes between farmers and herders, have been exacerbating the situation.
“The combination of all these elements brings an unprecedented high level of violence and killing of innocent people, destroying their properties in a region that is already relatively poor,” Chergui said.
— Amb. Smail Chergui (@AU_Chergui) February 11, 2019
The commissioner noted that issues of combating terrorism were discussed by all delegations, and AU member states had agreed to address the scourge of extremism in a more “comprehensive” manner.
This meant not only through “military and security responses but also other means in terms of governance, in making sure that no one is left on the road in terms of development, in terms of political engagement, in terms of justice,” he said, noting that youth unemployment was a key challenge.
Chergui comments echoed those of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took over as AU chair on Sunday with a call to tackle the root causes of extremism.
I held my first bilateral meeting with the Chairperson of the Union Pres. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi @AlsisiOfficial this morning. Consolidating the Reform agenda, economic+ social dev, economic integration + peace&security are among the priorities of #Egypt's chairmanship. #AUsummit pic.twitter.com/QHYsrwc4z3
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) February 11, 2019
Chergui expressed disappointment with difficulties the G5 Sahel force has been facing.
Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger agreed in 2017 to set up the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force that aims to train 5,000 troops to work alongside French troops as well as peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations’ Minusma stabilization mission in Mali. However, lack of funding and training, as well as poor equipment, have hobbled the G5 Sahel initiative.
“The troops are ready, but there is no equipment,” Chergui said.
With reporting from AFP