The EU strategy for security and development in the Sahel 2011-2013: sustaining ongoing efforts

In a deteriorated security environment, the EU released in September 2011 its strategy for development and security in the Sahel. Recognizing the inextricable link between security and development, it plans to act on these two aspects in support of national strategies and policies of the Sahel states. The three first countries targeted are Mauritania, Mali and Niger. Since the Strategy was launched, many questions have been raised regarding the regional framework set, the challenges of coordinating multiple actors and instruments, and the application of the security component of the Strategy. If a year later, the results could elicit strong disillusionment, it is clear that 2013 has triggered a new European dynamic for the Sahel region. 

Crédit photo: Visite du Représentant Spécial de l’UE pour le Sahel

From Free Trade to the Ukrainian Crisis: The EU and its Mistakes

Authoritarian tendencies of the regime of Vladimir Putin and the threats it poses to peace in Europe cannot be an excuse to avoid certain issues, including the strategy followed by the EU to Ukraine and Russia. Is it true that the Association Agreement proposed by Brussels to Kiev has, in fact, put Ukraine in the crossfire, forcing the country to choose between Russia and the West? Despite an initially very Manichean debate, several Western commentators timidly begin to show doubts which deserve further attention. This article goes back at the origin of the crisis.

Monitoring of Regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa - January to March 2014

This quarterly monitoring is part of a three years project (2014-2016) on “Contributing to improve human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in Sub-Saharan Africa” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and SenegalIt examines in particular broad internal security issues, regional tensions, and cross-border crime and trafficking. 

Crédit photo: manifestation à Ouagadougou 
(Source: Le balai citoyen)

The Pakistani Army: strengths and weaknesses of a key player

The new leader of the Pakistani Army recently reminded the nation and the international community that the capabilities of national military action are to be taken seriously. In a difficult economic environment, compromising its attempts at modernization, the army indeed remains a leading actor in Pakistan. Whether in view of an intervention abroad (India and Afghanistan) or within national borders (against insurgency, anti-terrorism), the Pakistan Army would have, according to their new Chief of Staff, the necessary means to carry out their various missions and protect the vital interests of this country in South Asia. Through a short series of questions / answers, this note attempts to give an overview of the Pakistani armed forces. 

Crédit photo : préparatifs pour une opération au Nord-Waziristan 
(Source :

Dynamique des réponses sécuritaires de la CEEAC à la crise centrafricaine

Située dans la partie septentrionale de l’Afrique centrale, la République centrafricaine (RCA) s’étend sur 622 984 km2, environ 12% de plus que la superficie de la France métropolitaine (551 500 km2), pour seulement 4 525 millions d’habitants (Banque mondiale, 2012). État enclavé, la Centrafrique est limitrophe de six États de la sous-région. Elle partage 1 197 km de frontière avec le Tchad au nord, à l’est 175 km avec le Soudan, 990 km avec le Soudan du Sud, à l’ouest 797 km avec le Cameroun, enfin au sud, 1 577 km, avec la République démocratique du Congo, et 467 km de frontière avec la République du Congo. La République centrafricaine est à la fois membre de la Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique centrale (CEEAC), et de la Communauté économique et monétaire de l'Afrique centrale (CEMAC)...

Arms Transfers to North Africa: between Economic Interests and Security Imperatives

In the past decade (2003-2012), arms transfers to North Africa have increased considerably. This Analysis Note aims at a better understanding of these dynamics and therefore presents a panorama of the last decade’s arms transfers towards North Africa – especially from EU Member states – and the context in which they took place. As a matter of fact, within North African countries, internal and regional stability challenges as well as issues related to the porosity of national borders have led those countries to acquire conventional arms. For EU member states, economic interests and the desire to influence North African countries as well as security imperatives related to the struggle against radical Islam, and illicit trafficking of arms and persons are the motives behind arms transfers towards North Africa.

Photo credit: Libyan military (UN Photo)

Central Africa: risks and setbacks of the pax tchadiana

During the past decade, Chad has tried to occupy, in Central Africa, areas of influence left by other more powerful states (Angola and Cameroon). By deploying troops in CAR and also in Mali under the Serval operation and the United Nations peace keeping mission, Chad seems determined to assert itself as a leading country regarding security issues in Central Africa and even in Sahel. Although, Chad has more firepower and seasoned troops than any other ECCAS member state (apart from Angola), his status as a regional power is still questioned. 

Crédit photo: Troupes tchadiennes de la MINUSMA, à Tessalit au Nord-Mali (source: Marco Dormino/UN - 27 juillet 2013)

Architecture et contexte sécuritaire de l'espace CEMAC-CEEAC

Les États d'Afrique centrale appartiennent à deux ensembles sous-régionaux. Le premier étant la Communauté économique et monétaire d'Afrique centrale (CEMAC), qui regroupe les pays de l'ancienne Afrique équatoriale française (AEF) – à savoir le Cameroun, le Congo-Brazzaville, le Gabon, la République centrafricaine et le Tchad – auxquels s'ajoute la Guinée équatoriale. Le second ensemble, la Communauté économique des États d'Afrique centrale (CEEAC) rassemble dix pays : l'Angola, le Burundi, la République démocratique du Congo et Sao Tomé-et-Principe, en sus des six États membres de la CEMAC...


Human Rights Criteria in Arms Exports

Presentation by Mélanie De Groof in front of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights.

During the next 12 minutes I will focus my attention – and hopefully yours – on the human rights criteria, and the humanitarian law criteria, which EU Member States must take into account when they decide whether or not to grant export licences. Doing research on the topic of arms transfers in view of human rights and humanitarian law standards is an extremely interesting and important activity. Especially today. This is because over the last decade EU arms have been used either to commit human rights abuses or internal repression on several occasions. To illustrate, in the year 2008 the Belgian army supplied Bahrain with 50 armoured combat vehicles. In the context of the so-called Arab Spring, these vehicles were reportedly used against protesters... 

Credit: Ammunition captured during a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan. (PRC Embedded Mentoring Team - UK Ministry of Defence)

A region caught in the crossfire : Military expenditures and arms transfers in Central Asia (2003-2012)

Central Asia and its security situation have considerably evolved during the last decade, both for internal and external reasons. The region is indeed faced with a vast conjunction of destabilizing factors: social unrest, religious fundamentalism, ethnic tensions, corruption, trafficking… Such a context is not without consequences on regional military expenditures, which have rocketed these last ten years. However, regarding those expenditures as well as arms transfers, states of the region follow very different dynamics: while Kazakhstan clearly emerges as the regional leader, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan remain isolated, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan very fragile. Therefore difficult to homogenize, the analysis is made even more complex by the absence of official and transparent data, thus exploitable, on these topics. 

(Crédit photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Weapons for Peace : Arms Transfers, Armed Conflicts & R2P

This presentation concentrates on some pressing questions relating to the practice and legality of arms transfers to the different parties – i.e. both State and non-State actors – involved in an armed conflict. In particular, it concentrates on the question whether arms transfers can contribute to the restoration of peace and security. Since the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ is often invoked by States providing arms to violent actors abroad (e.g. in Syria and Libya), this presentation also analyses the legitimacy of this argument. This presentation concludes by stressing that, generally, claims of the legality and the legitimacy of arms transfers to States struggling with armed conflicts are fallacious and must therefore be prevented.

(Photo credit: Kandahar, March 2011 by ISAF Public Affairs)

Pacifism: History, Successes and Perspectives

A recent trend in European historiography tends to describe Europe in the 20th century as the “dark continent” that has, according to Hobsbawn, “lived and thought in terms of worldwide war, even when guns were quiet and bombs were not exploding”. However, this tragic and violent interpretation of our history hides the dreams of peace and liberty - carried by men like Henri Lafontaine and many others - which strongly influenced our history. Even if a realistic appraisal of European history suggests peace movements have never been able to stop or prevent any war, they are an essential part of the process by which the paradigms and strategies of foreign policy change and become accountable. This paper shows that, even though pacifists may get frustrated in the pursuit of short-term political objectives, they are essential to influence social change over the long haul.

APSA: outlines and challenges of collective security in Africa

Since its inception in 2002, the African Union affirms its willingness to assume more responsibility for prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. However, the crises that rose on the continent during the decade have resulted in contrasting responses, sometimes raising doubts about its capacity to maintain peace without outside support. Given recent evolutions and the mutation of security contexts, the judgment is likely to be qualified, and calls for a renewed perspective of the challenges faced by the AU in the operationalization of the APSA: the African Peace and Security Architecture. Some African crises are also threats to global stability and require international responses. Also, the issue goes far beyond the single issue of African ownership of these crises and focuses more on the most appropriate coordination of means and relevant actors at different levels, national, sub-regional, continental and international levels. 

Crédit photo: soldats djiboutiens déployés lors de l’AMISOM (source : Stuart Price/UA-ONU)

Cartography of West-African oil

In the actual context of globalized economy, the competition for energy resources and raw materials has become an economic and geostrategic challenge. As the predominant energy, oil is a major strategic resource. Until the 1970s, the Middle-East region was the principal oil producer and exporter. Then, new zones of production emerged everywhere in the world and in particular in West Africa. All the West-African countries are conducting oil exploration operations. Their objective is to respond both to global demand, but also to support their economic growth and (direct) access to energy resources. What is the position of West Africa in the international oil production? What is the situation in terms of oil exploration and exploitation in the region? Which are the actors of the oil sector in West-African countries? 

Crédit photo : carte des prospections pétrolières en Afrique de l’Ouest (source : Offshore mag, décembre 2012)

Understanding the dynamics of conflict: A synthetic reading of conflict factors in West Africa

Crises and conflicts that arise in Africa are discussed in many medias in the convenient explanation of 'ethnic' confrontation or as the translation of greed and power struggles between local leaders. This "reductive" reading is partly a reflection of academic currents favoring a deterministic approach of African realities and overstating economic or identity based conflicts. However, many current analyzes based on approaches decoding the causes of the extension of these conflicts and their dynamics – such as conflict resolution theories or analysis of "conflict systems" – offer a multifaceted approach of conflicts factors. They allow a dynamic perspective on these conflicts, beyond spontaneous and simplistic representations. 


Monitoring of Regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa - October to December 2013

In the actual context of globalized economy, the competition for energy resources and raw materials has become an economic and geostrategic challenge. As the predominant energy, oil is a major strategic resource. Until the 1970s, the Middle-East region was the principal oil producer and exporter. Then, new zones of production emerged everywhere in the world and in particular in West Africa. All the West-African countries are conducting oil exploration operations. Their objective is to respond both to global demand, but also to support their economic growth and (direct) access to energy resources. What is the position of West Africa in the international oil production? What is the situation in terms of oil exploration and exploitation in the region? Which are the actors of the oil sector in West-African countries? 

Crédit photo : le nouveau président malien, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, en compagnie du Secrétaire général des Nations unies, Ban Ki-moon (source : Rick Bajornas/ONU, 28 septembre 2013)



Armed Forces of the DRC: institutionalized chaos?

Since they were founded in 2003, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) have constantly been accepting within their ranks members of armed groups after their eventual submission to integration processes more or less quickly expedited. These new soldiers and officers have shown a very relative loyalty to the authority of their state and have been very prone to desert and mount new rebellions. However, a strong and coherent army is a prerequisite to the restoration of security, which should allow the beginning of the socio-economic recovery of the country, particularly in its eastern part. If the permanent instability of the Congo and its economic stagnation do not favour a sustainable reform of the security sector, the possible lack of political will remains a debatable issue. 

Crédit photo : soldat des FARDC sur la route de Rutshuru, au Nord-Kivu (Clara Padovan/ONU, 2 septembre 2013)

The EU’s strategic offensive with ASEAN: Some room left but no time…

When they usually think about Asia, Europeans focus straightaway on China and view Southeast Asia as the periphery of the Middle Kingdom. 
Other parts of Asia deserve their interests: Southeast Asia is naturally part of them due to its localization, its intermediation role, its potential. The target for 2015 is to build an ASEAN Community (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). This institutional building process is worth a revisited European policy, including in its security dimension. This paper argues that the EU influence will probably be more determining with players as ASEAN than with stars like China if it integrates some very basic points. How can the European Union take opportunity of this notable fact? 


(credits: H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN, ASEAN)

European Union Initiatives to control small arms and light weapons: Towards a more coordinated approach

The European Union (EU) is a major player in global efforts to prevent and combat the uncontrolled accumulation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. The 2005 ‘Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition’ has given a significant impetus in promoting multilateralism activities in order to establish mechanisms in relevant forums to fight illicit proliferation of SALW, in structuring and prioritizing EU small arms assistance programmes as well as mainstreaming SALW in broader peace and security initiatives. 

This paper argues that a better coordination between EU export controls—which today remain a national prerogative—and small arms assistance policies is essential for a more integrated and coherent approach to fighting the illicit proliferation of SALW. In particular, EU member states should pay special attention when assessing SALW export licences to countries benefiting from EU assistance and to other destinations in the neighbourhood of such countries. Recent developments at the international and EU levels should encourage the EU to comprehensively review and update the 2005 SALW Strategy.

A naval arms race in Asia: Towards a new Washington Conference?

China’s rise brings in its wake a recalibration of power relations at both the regional and global levels. As a corollary to this development, East and Southeast Asia are now the theater of major processes of military modernization. These dynamics are all the more worrying that they are often little understood, and that regional states seldom appear to be in full control. The present note offers to isolate keydimensions of these evolutions, and addresses the following question: would a small detour into History help in making sense of these multidimensional military modernizations? Would it provide useful lessons to tackle their inherent challenges to regional peace and stability? This note draws on and expands the views expressed by the authors in various media outlets such as RTBF (Belgium), The Diplomat, and Le Temps (Switzerland). 

(Crédit photo:  Flickr, U.S. Navy photo, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder)

What remains of AQIM in North Mali? : Evaluation of the consequences of Operation Serval

Since the end of September, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed two car bombs, in Timbuktu against the Malian army and in Tessalit against Chadian blue helmets, and the kidnapping and murder of two french journalists in Kidal. Nearly a year after the Operation Serval started in Mali, this renewed terrorist activism reveals the resilience of the jihadist organisation. However, the French military force, supported by the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and Malian units, has considerably weakened the terrorist organization. While the Malian Armed Forces and the blue helmets of the MINUSMA are progressively taking over in the field, the actual resumption of AQIM terrorist activities in North-Mali raises the question of the consequences of Operation Serval on its capacities and its ability to reorganise and redeploy in the Sahel. 


China in West Africa: a sustainable model of partnership?

China’s successes in Africa attracted considerable worldwide attention to the « partnership model » offered by Beijing to its partners. However, these very successes have also, quite paradoxically, generated a new set of challenges. Three of these challenges can schematically be isolated, that together cast doubt on how sustainable the Chinese presence and influence in Africa can be. First, Sino-African partnerships remain highly fragmented. Second, African partners have rising expectations towards China. Third, the increasing role of China as a security actor in Africa brings with it additional strains and questions. These issues and challenges all point towards one question: can the Sino-African model of cooperation constitute a leverage for emerging African powers, and how? The present note tackles this question through cases and lessons provided by West Africa’s experience of its relationship with China. 

Mali, a dialogue of the deaf?

Since the liberation of the North Mali from the jihadists, the Malian government has engaged in a dialogue with the non-terrorist armed groups acting in the north. The Ouagadougou agreement signed on the 18th of June, which allowed the holding of the presidential election, was the first step in the process of crisis resolution. It is supposed to enable the implementation of an inclusive dialogue once the constitutional order restored. Two months after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita arrives to power, doubts remain as to the outcome of the negotiations. The signatory parties are far away from resolving the question of the northern region’s administrative status, with alternating phases of tension and easing of tension. Both are sticking to its positions without daring to break off the dialogue. 

(Crédit photo : Marco Dormino/MINUSMA)

The EU Raw Materials Initiative: What is the impact on EU-Africa relations?

The rise of so-called « emerging » powers, increasingly reliant on foreign sources of natural resources is transforming the relations between the European Union, its members, and Africa. Within this framework, the EU has been developing since 2008 a strategy to secure its own sources of natural resources called the “Raw Materials” Initiative. This initiative is both the product of a particular context, that of an increased competition over Africa’s resources, and the victim of it. Nowadays African partners are having more and more political, commercial and development cooperation options at their disposal. Because of this, the EU has started to give more consideration to Africa’s own choices, while still looking out for its own interests. As a conclusion this complex situation could be an opportunity for « emerging competitors » to gain access to Africa’s resources… 

Crédit photo: travailleur à 330 mètres de profondeur dans la mine d'or d'Obuasi au Ghana (source : Jonathan Ernst/Banque mondiale)


Monitoring of regional stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa : Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal


This quarterly monitoring is part of a three years project (2011-2013) on “Improving human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in eight countries in West and Central Africa” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 

It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina FasoCôte d’IvoireGuineaMaliNiger and Senegal. It examines in particular issues related to regional tensions, terrorism and cross-border trafficking, production and transfer of arms and cooperation mechanisms in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.