Germany’s engagement in the Sahel: Bundestag deliberates on Bundeswehr missions
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali in April 2022, © Florian Gaertner / photothek
Germany wants to continue to assume responsibility in the Sahel – above all within the context of the United Nations peacekeeping mission. Today, the German Bundestag is debating on the deployment of the Bundeswehr in two missions in the region.
Despite the commitment of the international community, the security situation in the Sahel continues to deteriorate. For years, the region has been plagued by ethnic conflicts and clashes between farmers and herders over scarce resources. Terrorism and organised crime are widespread. Moreover, the impact of the climate crisis is particularly tangible there. It is exacerbating existing conflicts in the countries of the Sahel region, which are already among the poorest in the world.
In some countries in the Sahel, the political systems are also becoming increasingly instable. In Mali, the military has staged another coup, and the transition back to democratic structures is progressing very slowly. Serious human rights violations have so far not been properly investigated.
The Bundeswehr deployed in two different missions
The security situation in the Sahel is not only of prime importance for the people in the region and the stability of the African continent. Its impact also extends as far as Europe. Germany is therefore supporting the countries in the Sahel in building and strengthening functional state structures and institutions.
Germany has also been involved in two military missions in Mali since 2013. Due to the changed situation, the Federal Government has carefully reviewed its engagement to date, undertaken necessary changes to the mandates and today has decided to ask the Bundestag to extend the missions until the end of May 2023.
UN Mission MINUSMA
The United Nations mission MINUSMA is helping to implement the peace process in Mali and to stabilise Mali’s central regions. One important aspect is the protection of the civilian population in areas particularly affected by instability. The soldiers involved in the mission also help to create a safe environment for the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the Sahel in April 2022 and shared her impressions from that trip with the Bundestag today:
The situation in Mali is anything but easy. I, along with the dear colleagues who accompanied me, had direct experience of this in Bamako. I therefore told interim President Goïta and Foreign Minister Diop from this coup government in no uncertain terms that the transition to an elected government must not be delayed any longer. We are calling for this not only from the European side but in coordination with ECOWAS and the UN Security Council.
However, I want to state very clearly here that this MINUSMA mission is not bolstering the Malian Government. The mission is supporting the Malian people: people who want to go to the market, children who finally want to go back to school.
Of course, we are well aware that stability needs more than just military forces. This mission on its own will not create stability. But on the other hand, it is also true that without a minimum level of security, without this minimum level of military protection, the political efforts of the international community in particular will hardly be able to continue.
Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed that protection of the German soldiers was a top priority. She emphasised that if this could not be adequately guaranteed, “then we will of course adapt our contribution and, if necessary, terminate it.”
Under the motion by the Federal Government, in future up to 1400 German servicemen and women could be deployed for the United Nations.
Up to 20 German police officers can also serve with MINUSMA in addition to the Bundeswehr forces. The basis for this is the decision by the Federal Government in 2015.
EUTM Mali: The European Union Training Mission in Mali and the Niger
Since 2013, the EU-led mission EUTM Mali has trained and advised Malian armed forces in order to enable them to maintain security and eliminate threats in that large country themselves. A Bundeswehr contingent has assisted with the tasks of the mission. In view of the current political situation in Mali, the European Union decided in early April 2022 to temporarily, gradually and reversibly drop key elements of training and capacity-building in Mali. That means that the German presence in the EU Training Mission in Mali to date has been reduced to a minimum, while training and tactical guidance has been halted until further notice. The upper limit for German personnel participating in the training mission is to be reduced to a total of 300 German soldiers. The majority of those forces will be deployed in the Niger.
After the Cabinet decision and today’s first reading of the motions, these were referred to the Bundestag committees for further consultations. At the end of May, the Bundestag chamber will then decide whether to extent the two mandates in a second reading.