Wed, 29 Nov 2023

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that 600 million euros spent training security personnel in the Sahel had "failed to bolster democracy". His comments follow recent coups in both Niger and Gabon.

At the European Parliament in Strasbourg the European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told MEPs that the millions spent in military training in the Sahel had "not helped armed forces support democratically elected governments".

He told them, "When I do my sums, it shows me that over the past 10 years, we've spent over 600 million euros on civilian and military training missions in the Sahel."

Borrell, who serves as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, added that he did not see a "bright future" for a civilian training mission working with Niger's interior security forces.

Policy revision

He added that there might have been too much of an EU focus on building up militaries and not enough work done with civil societies in the region.

"Should we revise our Sahel policy? Well, yes, it's absolutely right that we should have a more strategic approach and less tactical approach," Borrell said.

A mission mooted earlier this year to bolster the capacity of the Niger military will now probably not go ahead, he said.

Niger's military coup widely condemned following overthrow of President Bazoum Niger's junta finds support in Mali and Russia, but France stands firmRegional support

The coup in Niger was the third armed seizure of power in the Sahel in recent years, following putsches in the neighbouring former French colonies of Mali and Burkina Faso.

The EU has already had to scale back its training mission in Mali after the junta that took power there in 2021 brought in mercenaries from Russia's Wagner group.

During the past ten years, around 50,000 security and military personnel have been trained with EU money in Sahel countries including Niger and Mali.

According to Sahel expert Thierry Vircoulon, the more funds France and the EU injected in the "fight against terrorism", the more the Nigerien military were able to siphon off for themselves, creating an impossible situation for the president and his government.

But Borrell concluded that the EU should not abandon the Sahel states, but should, instead, give more support to the West African Bloc Ecowas.

(with newswires)

Originally published on RFI

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