Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Western diplomats warn of impending disaster in Saheli

Western diplomats fear the spread of extremist groups and continuing economic and social problems in West Africa, and the Sahel is at a climax that could have disastrous consequences for the region and beyond.

Officials in both Europe and the United States warned on Thursday that international efforts have so far failed to counter the factors driving youth to take up arms and called for increased cooperation with countries in the region. .

FILE – Greece’s then Foreign Minister, Stavros Lambrinidis, speaks at the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters, September 23, 2011.

“The rise of violent extremism and the worsening of the humanitarian situation in the Sahel and the wider West African region threaten the entire African continent and the future of all of us,” Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU ambassador to the US, told the virtual conference. , “This is as high a stake as it gets.”

US officials described the situation as no less serious.

“Despite a decade of strong international investment, this sector is headed in the wrong direction,” said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Gonzales.

“Armed groups continue to expand their presence as well as their capabilities and their violence,” Gonzales said. “We need to address the underlying drivers of insecurity more holistically in order to turn the tide.”

Of greatest concern has been Mali, where militants linked to groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda have continued to infiltrate, and where the military government, which seized power in August 2020, held elections this February. postponed until 2026.

Earlier this week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) criticized Mali’s interim government for refusing to hold elections as initially agreed, including suspending all commercial and financial transactions and withholding financial aid. imposed many sanctions against

The European Union announced on Thursday it would follow through on its own sanctions against Mali’s interim government.

FILE - High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks at the European Union delegation on September 20, 2021 in New York City.

FILE – High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks at the European Union delegation on September 20, 2021 in New York City.

“Despite all the warnings we have given to the Malian authorities, we see no sign of progress on the part of these officials,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting with the EU defense minister in the French city of Brest. Is.”

“The risk that the situation in this country [Mali] It is clear that it is continuing to deteriorate. “We will be following the situation closely,” he said.

Borrell said that despite the imposition of the sanctions, the EU mission to train and advise the Mali Armed Forces would continue to support Mali’s armed forces.

Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations called the ECOWAS sanctions “illegal, illegitimate and inhuman” but said the interim government was ready for additional talks with its neighbours.

Further complicating matters, European officials have raised concerns about Mali’s decision to bring in mercenaries from the Russia-based Wagner Group to its security forces – a charge denied by Mali’s interim government.

The US Department of Defense declined to confirm the reports, describing the prospect as worrying.

“Given the Wagner Group’s record, any role for the Russian-backed Wagner Group forces in Mali would exacerbate an already fragile and volatile situation,” spokeswoman Cynthia King told VOA.

The US suspended military training and cooperation with Mali following the August 2020 coup.

Germany, which has about 1,000 troops in Mali, has said it will reconsider its mission. France, which had 3,000 troops in Mali, is gradually reducing its military footprint, withdrawing from all but its military bases in the country.

FILE - A French soldier is silhouetted looking at military vehicles in Gao, Mali, on August 1, 2019.

FILE – A French soldier is silhouetted looking at military vehicles in Gao, Mali, on August 1, 2019.

Despite the decline, French officials insist they remain committed to helping Mali defeat terrorist groups on its soil.

“France will not abandon Mali or the other Sahel countries,” Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador to the US, told Thursday’s virtual conference on the region. “At the request of the African nations, France continues to combat these armed groups in the Sahel, with much commendable support from the United States.”

“Young recruits joining these terrorist organizations are doing so not because they want to join jihad, but also because they have no other prospects,” he said. “It will take time for the Sahel to stabilize over the long term, and there is a long way to go.”

The goal, ultimately, is to “keep Mali engaged and not isolate it,” said Emanuela Del Rey, the EU’s special representative for the Sahel.

“We must keep the conversation open and alive and hold the transitional officers to their commitments,” she said.

VOA’s Margaret Beshir and Annie Risemberg contributed to this report.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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