In light of these well-publicized reports, it is inexplicable that the EU is considering sending weapons rather than prioritizing the economic development of the Sahel. There are no shortage of solutions that could help stabilize the region’s governments. The most logical and effective undertaking for the Sahel’s leaders – possibly with EU support – is to solve the factors that give militias and insurgents their popular support – primarily illiteracy, poverty and maladministration.
For instance, the recruitment strategy of AQIM – like most terror organizations – focuses on exploiting impoverished communities already estranged from their government. The low literacy levels and negative economic conditions in these communities create a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists. By exploiting underdevelopment, AQIM will eventually persuade vulnerable individuals to join their rebellion – or force them to once the terrorists have gained sufficient strength.
To deprive terrorists of this strength, the EU can work with concerned governments by identifying ways to improve formal education and the overall development of the exposed communities. It must also stimulate governments in the region to eliminate corruption and improve accountability.
Most part of the Sahel is already blessed with underutilized natural resources like iron ore and promising agricultural potential – pending alternative means of water supply to areas with low rainfall, and a reduction of the EU’s protectionist agricultural tariffs. If the EU can partner with Africa to better manage these resources for the benefit of local communities, particularly those prone to insurgency, it will chart the course for an economic remedy to insecurity.
Extending mutually beneficial trade deals is an equally good means to improve the economic situation in these countries. The EU should foster enterprise, which provides employment opportunities that give vulnerable people the means to sustain their lives without taking up arms against their governments.
I submit that this is a more peaceful, and more moral, undertaking. Preserving life, which bears the divine image, is a foundational principle of the word of God. Allowing people to thrive to the utmost of their ability is the great undertaking that all African and European leaders should pursue. If they do so, they will find that in the divine economy, love truly conquers all.
The EU should reconsider the long-term impact of providing weapons and ponder the prosperity that could follow increased development, seeing both alternatives through the lens of rationality and morality. This is what separates a prudent action from a disastrous one. EU support for the Sahel region must follow the wise counsel: First, do no harm.
(Photo credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 3.0.)