The Sahel juntas are rearming on the backs of their ex-partners

The Sahel juntas are rearming on the backs of their ex-partners

Forced to pack up, they left many things behind them.

The head of the military junta of Burkina Faso, Captain Traoré, did not skimp on the means to stage the reception of around ten new drones from Turkey this beginning of the week. The young soldier, flanked by his Minister of Defense, presented these new acquisitions which should enable Burkina Faso to strengthen the fight against jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In the process, the head of the Burkinabé military regime thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for this partnership “healthy and sincere”. After turning its back on the French army last year, Burkina has moved closer to new partners, including Russia and Turkey. Thanks to the development of drone technology and its very active diplomacy, Ankara has quickly established itself in recent months in a number of African states where it is in a commercial war with China over this very specialized military segment.

Nothing is lost

The military juntas that have come to power following successive coups since 2020 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger must face the constant threat from jihadists. To strengthen their military power, these regimes, particularly those of Bamako and Niamey, have resorted to a strategy which consists of pushing the former allies of the previous regimes to leave the country precipitously, forcing them to leave behind them equipment which makes the happiness of the newly installed juntas.

Read Nina Wilen's note

Procurement by Proxy: How Sahelian Juntas Acquire Equipment from Ousted Security Partners

This is what Nina Wilén, director of the Africa program at the Egmont Institute for International Relations, based in Brussels, explains. For the researcher, who has just published an in-depth document on the issue, there is no doubt that the juntas have, in particular, knowingly poisoned political and diplomatic relations with France or the United States which had deployed substantial resources in the region to fight against jihadist offensives. A deterioration of the situation which was only the first stage of a process which quickly led to the announcement of the complete divorce, followed by a departure which had to be immediate in conditions often made difficult by the juntas themselves .

As a result, the armies of the former partners were forced to abandon tons of equipment which was quickly recovered by the Nigerien or Malian forces, or even by their new partners, at the forefront of which is Russia.

In Mali, France had to negotiate step by step to have a period of six months to withdraw all its military equipment deployed for ten years. According to the official expression, this withdrawal “was carried out in an orderly and structured manner”. But France had to abandon all its military bases and all the infrastructure built over the last 9 years. All were recovered by the Malian army.

Minusma, the United Nations mission in Mali, was not spared from this policy of “rot” put in place by the Bamako junta which did everything to slow down the withdrawal of the UN mission which could no longer benefit from operational support for the French Operation Barkhane. The closure of entire sections of airspace has terribly hampered the departure of peacekeepers and their equipment.

For the researcher, this policy carried out by the juntas must be read in the light of the return of tensions between Russia and the West, which is combined with a “retreat of Western influence and multilateralism” in this region.

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