Monday, 23/9/2019 | 8:35 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Why it’s not all about security as West beefs up military in Africa’s Sahel

African securityWhy it’s not all about security as West beefs up military in Africa’s Sahel

By Keith Somerville

Published 2 November 2016

Over the past few weeks the United States and France have pledged considerable extra funds to strengthening their military presence in Africa’s Sahel region – a narrow, arid band of land stretching across the continent from west to east just south of the Sahara desert. This has been prompted by growing Western fears of destabilization. There has been concern that Islamist groups were establishing themselves in the vast spaces between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. But Western interest in the Sahel region is not merely about security. It has also been linked by some to the West’s desire to protect vital natural resources such as oil, gas, and uranium. One geographer and Africa specialist has called this a new scramble for Africa.

Over the past few weeks the United States and France have pledged considerable extra funds to strengthening their military presence in Africa’s Sahel region – a narrow, arid band of land stretching across the continent from west to east just south of the Sahara desert. This has been prompted by growing Western fears of destabilization. There has been concern that Islamist groups were establishing themselves in the vast spaces between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea.

Washington and Paris have promised to help bolster the security of allied governments from Mali in the west to Djibouti in the east. Most of these countries have porous borders and suffer internal security problems or conflicts.

Mali, for example, has endured a long-running civil war fueled by the return of armed fighters from Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. These fighters launched a separatist struggle that was quickly hijacked by Islamist movements like Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Niger on the other hand has become embroiled, along with Cameroon and Chad, in Nigeria’swar against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Other conflicts continue in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Darfur in Sudan.

France has had a considerable military role in West and Central Africa, long after it’s colonial role ended in the early 1960s. Its military seeks to protect friendly governments and to defend longstanding French economic interests. These interests include particularly Niger’s uranium.

The United States, in a less overt manner, has a surprisingly widespread military presence in Africa. This has increased in recent years with growing instability in the Sahel region. America is now taking a more overt approach with more basing facilities as well as surveillance and training missions. This includes supporting friendly states and establishing a stronger combat-capable presence.

But Western interest in the Sahel region is not merely about security. It has also been linked by some to the West’s desire to protect vital natural resources such as oil, gas, and uranium. The geographer and Africa specialist, Padraig Carmody, has called this a new scramble for Africa.

-->