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G5 Sahel Joint Force pre-deployment training 5th mandate: Voices of the participants

18/10/2021 - 16:21
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Abdoulaye is a senior officer of the Chadian army with the rank of Colonel. He is 42, from N’Djamena, married and father of ten. Together with 39 fellow officers - including a woman - from the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad) – Abdoulaye participates in the pre-deployment training of commanders and headquarters key staff of the G5 Sahel Joint Force – ‘la Force Conjointe du G5 Sahel' – 5th mandate.


The course is an outcome of the partnership between the European Union and the G5 Sahel in the domain of security and defense and aims at enhancing the readiness of the Force Conjointe to plan and conduct operations, fight terrorism and trans-national organized crime, contributing to the restoration of state authority and facilitating humanitarian action within the area of the G5 Sahel.

All this is essential to promote development and growth in the Sahel.

Few days after the course is over Abdoulaye and his colleagues will say goodbye to their loved ones for a year. Their new home will be the battleground.

The training, that took place from 23 September to 15 October in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in a structure of the G5 Sahel, the Collège de Défense, included lectures and operational exercises with simulations of real-life scenarios.

Main topics of the course included the understanding of the international context, the G5 Sahel defense and security strategy, the mandate and mission of the Force Conjointe, and organization and functioning of the different headquarters. Particular attention was given to the respect of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law, as well as to gender and sexual violence during armed conflicts.

Fady, a Lieutenant-colonel of the Malian Army born in Timbuktu, who seems totally at ease being the only woman joining the pre-deployment, with a background in juridical studies at the École Supérieure Normale in Bamako, says that the session on International Humanitarian Law was for her the most enriching part of the course. “It is important to constantly remind about rules of engagement to military staff deployed in combat zones” states Fady. On the side of sessions dedicated to Gender and sexual violence, she points out that “Abuses can happen everywhere. What is important is the level of accountability”, stressing that sensibilisation on this subject among officers to be deployed in conflict area needs to be permanent. Another crucial point, adds Fady, is the presence of women in the armed forces. “We need more” she remarks, “also in peacekeeping operations” because this can help to make the difference for winning the hearts and minds of the population living in conflict areas.

The concept of “accountability” evoked by Fady was debated among the participants during a session on the rules of engagement of the Force. The line between the right to self-defense and committing an abuse can be blurred on a war front. Discussing about institutional framework and International Humanitarian Law was therefore an important aspect of the training.

Towards the end of the course, Abdoul Aziz, 48 years old from Niger, who married at the age of 33 and has a 5-year-old child, explains about his takeaways. He deals with planning and has already been in the theater of operations, but “at a tactical level”, as he describes. “By attending this training and due to my new role in the Force Conjointe I am now in a much better position to draft plans and orders, since I understand the bigger picture. Here we learn how to plan, and how to give the best advice to military decision makers. What I draft responds to the needs we learn on the ground” continues Aziz, “the challenge”, he adds, “is that we are constantly reacting to continuous and multiple threats while we lose men in the field. We need intelligence from the ground, however in that same ground sinister forces use civilians to hiding behind them”.

Learning a “common language” to be used in operations between units composed of soldiers and officers of different nationalities, scattered over diverse sectors is another fundamental aspect of the pre-deployment training. Mustapha, a 58-year-old Lieutenant-colonel of the Mauritanian Army explains about having learned in this respect about best practices (the NATO ones). “Here we master how to speak in one language” says Mustapha, “and most importantly we end up getting to know each other before being on the ground. This makes a lot of sense even when communicating being deployed in different zones”.

His tone changes towards a tame note when adding: “At the end of the day is the poverty of the Sahel the very cause of war and instability. It’s a vicious circle, as without security development is not possible”, he concludes.

The European Union continues its solid engagement in the Sahel as fine officers like Mustapha, Abdoul Aziz, Fady and Abdoulaye, risk their lives just like all the European soldiers who lost their lives in this region. All of them were driven by the will of securing stability and prosperity for their fellow citizens and loved ones.  

The EU Regional Advisory & Coordination Cell for the Sahel (RACC) contributed to the general organization and to the coordination of the course, by facilitating the interaction between the Force Conjointe, the College de Defense, and the EU CSDP Missions and Operations deployed in the Sahel (EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger) and the G5 Sahel partners, while actively supporting the successful unfolding of the training.

A variety of trainers delivered presentations and mentored the participants. EUTM Mali was responsible for coordinating the content in the first part of the training. The RACC presented the European Union CSDP action in the Sahel.

Other mentors came from the current Joint Force HQ, the G5S Defense College, the French operation 'Barkhane', OHCHR, OCHA, WFP, ICRC and IFESO (on behalf of the College).

The financing of this training activity falls under the European Union’s and its Member Sates’ project in support of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which currently stands 196,4 MEUR, mainly dedicated at providing equipment and infrastructures to the Force.

Representing the EU Ambassador to Mauritania at the closing ceremony of the training, Jérôme Lebouc, Team Leader Governance, underlined the importance of a mutual engagement in the Sahel during his final remarks. More specifically about the pre-deployment training, he said: “The Collège de Défense became one of pillars of the G5 Sahel. The value of this 5th mandate course echoes in the words of the participants. The European Union is proud of having contributed to it”.


*Text and images by Francesca Marretta, RACC’s Press and Public Information Officer

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