The joint task force by the so-called Group of Five to tackle the threat of terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region is now operational.

The G5 comprises of – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. But a number of challenges remain, including funding and the group has taken their plight to the United Nations Security Council.

Briefing the Council on the activities of the G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, El-Ghassim Wane, it was also noted the need to tackle cross-border crime and to impose targeted sanctions.

El-Ghassim Wane says: “The cross-border dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region, as well as the serious challenges posed by transnational organised crime and its links to terrorism continue to pose a serious threat to stability, prosperity and growth in the Sahel region.”

After a launch on July 2 the force said it will fully operational later in the year. But its current budget shortfall has been an impediment.

Wane says the Joint Force offers a “unique opportunity”.

“In Mali, attacks by violent extremist groups on national security forces, international forces, and MINUSMA, remain a sad reality and hamper the implementation of the peace agreement, one of key elements for stabilization of the region. Their activities know no borders, and time and time again we have seen vicious attacks, also in neighbouring countries and in the broader region.”

More than 30 million people face food insecurity, one in five children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition. And at least 4.9 million are displaced by the effects of conflicts.

“The G5 Sahel countries are undertaking tremendous efforts in multiple theatres across vast and inhospitable terrains and with limited resources, to improve security in the Sahel and to counter violent extremism and drug and arms smuggling, including in the fight against Boko Haram, and elsewhere in the region,” Wane said.

The Joint Force is ready to conduct its first co-ordinated operations along Mali’s borders with Nigeria and Burkina Faso in October. They expect to increase their capacity in 2018

– By SABC TV News