Experts call for new EU approach to develop and support security in Africa

Experts across Europe have called for a new approach to develop and support security and defence within Africa.

The focus comes as France and its European allies announced plans to withdraw their forces from the West African State of Mali.

France and French-led troops have been in Mali since 2013, but the country’s relations with Mali have deteriorated over the last year.

At a news conference before the sixth EU-Africa Summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the withdrawal of French troops would take four to six months and Paris would deploy its troops elsewhere in the Sahel region. Niger’s President Mohammed Bazoum confirmed on Friday that his country would host French-led Takuba forces and praised their work. He tweeted: “They are special forces with capabilities responding to the threat posed by terrorist organisations.”

With France withdrawing, there has been call for a renewed focus on supporting security within Africa.

Katja Keul, deputy minister at Germany’s foreign ministry released a news statement expressing that France’s actions will also have an impact on Germany’s joint international engagement in the region.

Additionally, some EU officials are on edge regarding both the presence of Russian mercenaries and growing Chinese influence in volatile parts of Africa. There is fear that the lack of an EU security presence could bolster Moscow and Beijing’s ambitions.

Prior to the EU-Africa Summit, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief Josep Borrell stated: “We are not abandoning the Sahel. We are just restructuring our presence.”

He added that the EU’s support would be implemented in accordance with the political situation in Mali.

Lucia Montanaro, Europe head of the conflict prevention and peace-building NGO Saferworld, said current events in Mali should make the EU rethink, rebalance and readjust its approach to maintaining peace and security across Africa.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, she said: “Europe has focussed on militarisation and security first approaches. Heavily militarised responses suppress the symptoms of insecurity without addressing underlying causes like structural inequality, corruption, and exclusionary governance which are drivers of conflict.”

She added: “EU member states urgently need to take heed of the failures of this approach in the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It should not be only about supporting the state, but actually supporting the people of these countries and harnessing their expertise, in order to address the fundamental drivers of conflict.”

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