August 20, 2010
The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, along with the French IRIS, issued in July a report dedicated to “Security and Stability in Africa in the twenty-first century“, written by Richard Downie. This report is really worth being read because of the accurate and updated view on Africa it conveys.
I particularly enjoyed the description of the influence of the terrorist group al Qaida in Islamic Maghreb and the difficulties of the Saharan states to cope with this threat because of their lack of resources or flaw organization.
However, most interesting, there is a major absent in this report: Europe. After some initial declarations on the increasing role of the EU, we get back to reality and to the traditional role of both USA and France.
In the introduction, the decreasing French influence is stressed: “In the military arena, engagement is evolving as well: France seeks a more streamlined, low-profile presence on the continent and will increasingly work with and through the European Union; and the United States, with the stand-up of AFRICOM, seeks to build African capacities in a more sustained, consistent, and integrated way”.
As well I could read somewhere else that: ‘although 10 countries in the Maghreb and Sahel regions have joined the TSCTP and there are “5+5” meetings to coordinate European and African counterterrorism efforts, there is a persistent and troubling lack of trust within the region’. (more explanation on the TSCTP).
Then, that’s it. Not only one word on EU support to Saharan Africa, although lots of programs and initiatives have been conducted for years. Some countries are even directly involved: there are still some Spanish hostages over there; some other citizens of European countries have been abducted over the past years. Therefore one could expect in the report some more details on EU support to counter-terrorism in Sahel. Or at least, some pieces of information on the positive influence of EU support to development to limit influence of AQIM would be welcome.
After having thought over this issue, I would go to the following conclusion:
-The EU aid to development is not clearly linked to fight against terrorism and therefore to Common Security and Defence Policy. I would not be amazed. Very often, the people in charge of aid to development do not like the mix between their work and global security. I do not know exactly what are the synergies between development and security related services at the EU Council, but it would be worth having a look at it.
-The EU, as such, does not own yet the planning capability to address counter-terrorism in this area or anywhere else. I would suppose that the fight against AQIM is rather a mix of complex relations with local leaders, sometimes the non-legal ones, intelligence involving the secret services, good cooperation between local and French or US military, aid to development in cooperating areas and negotiations when European nationals are detained. Shortly, I do not see the EU and its procedures, extensive bureaucracy, being as efficient and reactive as a single nation in such a complex area. Moreover, involving EU military assets would lead us back to the traditional never-ending discussions on the assets to be put at disposal of the EU.
-The accusation of neo-colonialism against French presence in Africa belongs to the usual arguments aiming at rejecting a French involvement. However, cultural links and political links are very strong and must not be underestimated if we want to reach results. A purely ethic or even bureaucratic approach does not perfectly fit the African way of doing business, which does not exactly apply the western criteria.
Therefore, having the two countries most involved as leaders in Sahel is not that surprising. However I remain frustrated of the lack of information on the role of EU in the area. I would have expected some details on its, at least indirect, support to counter-terrorism.
May be the best solution for the EU to optimize the results of its aid to Sahel would be to outsource its programs to France. Then more efficiency could be reached through a sharing of Africa in areas of responsibilities. I can guess that some will consider this as a new form of colonialism. If so, let us waste the EU money.
For those who would like to get more details, I propose you to link with a previous post:f.