EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

Mauritanian soldiers stand guard near the border with Mali. Remote areas have been targeted by extremists and other armed groups that have proliferated in Africa’s Sahel region. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018

EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

  • The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim
  • The five Sahel countries say they need €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania: The European Union and France on Thursday said their total investment in development funding aimed at preventing terrorism in African Sahel countries would rise to €1.3 billion ($1.5 billion), as the region struggles with extremism and lawlessness.
The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim since a militant revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012.
The EU’s International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica told a conference in the Mauritanian capital that the bloc’s Sahel Priority Investment Programme (PIP) “now totals almost €800 million,” with an extra €122 million announced Thursday.
France will invest €500 million for the “priorities” of the G5 Sahel, added French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, explaining that the country will add an extra €220 million to the €280 million already pledged.
“Half of this sum is for projects already planned or under way. The other half will be awarded in a speedy way over the next two years to enable you to meet your priorities,” Le Drian said.
The five Sahel countries told the meeting they needed €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants. They themselves provide 13 percent of that sum.
Governments hope that with an array of projects, including building schools, health centers and improving access to water, they can prevent communities from falling under the influence of extremists.
Extremism in the region has been fueled by the chaos that engulfed Libya in 2011, the militant takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
The extremists were largely driven out of Mali in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
The France-backed fledgling African regional force fighting militants is also suffering from lack of funding and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in its operations.
As well as fighting terrorism it tackles smuggling and illegal immigration networks that operate in these vast, remote areas on the Sahara’s southern fringe.
A devastating attack in June on the force’s headquarters in Mali, claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, prompting a brief halt in operations.


Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

Updated 01 December 2020

Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

SYDNEY: An Australian-British academic released after two years imprisoned in Iran on spying charges said she thanked supporters from the “bottom of my heart” Tuesday, saying they helped her through a “never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.”
In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she was “totally blown away” by efforts from friends and family to secure her release.
“I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am,” the 33-year-old said.
“It gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare. My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!“
Moore-Gilbert was released last week in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.
She was arrested by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.
She was later charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in jail, allegations she has denied.
arb/mtp