UN official laments Mali’s withdrawal from G5-Sahel joint force


By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, May 19, 2022 UN senior official, Ms Martha Pobee, has described Mali’s decision to withdraw from the G5-Sahel group and its Joint Force as “unfortunate” and “regrettable”.

Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, told the Security Council at UN headquarters that Mali withdrew from the force on Sunday.

She said that the decision by Mali’s military government to leave the G5 Sahel force “is most certainly a step back for the Sahel.”

She urged countries in the region to redouble efforts to protect human rights, amid protracted political and security crises.

The official said the Joint Force was created in 2017 by the “G5” Heads of State – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – to counter terrorism in the Sahel “head on”.

However, the challenging political and security dynamics in the Sahel – and uncertain outcomes of transitions in Mali and Burkina Faso, in particular – has already slowed Joint Force operations.

The G5 Sahel, meanwhile, has not convened a high-level political meeting since November 2021, while its Defence and Security Committee has not met in over six months.

Pobee commended the efforts of Commander General Oumar Bikimo, noting the Joint Force has been able to carry out operations in all three of its sectors since the Council last met in November, despite the absence of Malian battalions.

“How Mali’s decision to leave the G5 and the Joint Force will impact the dynamics in the region remains to be seen.’’

For its part, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will continue to provide support to the Joint Force long as it is mandated to do so by the Council.

It has been working with contractors to deliver life support consumables to the contingents and will honour requests received by the other four contingents outside of Mali.

“Protecting the most vulnerable has become ever more important,” Pobee said.

In addition, she said that for the last five years, the international community, donors and partners had struggled to reach a consensus on the most effective support mechanism for a collective security response in the Sahel.

“And the lack of consensus persists – despite the recognition by all, that the terrorist onslaught in the Sahel constitutes a slow-burning, mortal threat to international peace and security.

“It is now more urgent than ever to act,” she said.

Pobee called for a holistic approach that honours “the primacy of politics”, addresses the causes of poverty and exclusion, and provides opportunities and fulfilled lives for the many young people in the region.

The official said the African Union Commission and the UN Secretariat would jointly carry out a strategic assessment of security and governance initiatives in the Sahel.

She said the Africa Union Commission and UN would carry out a strategic assessment with the goal of strengthening support to the G5-Sahel, its Joint Force and other security and governance initiatives in the region.