Spatial formats and security politics in the Sahel: Reconstructing the establishment of the Nouakchott Process and the G5 Sahel


In discussions about the rescaling of intervention efforts in Mali, from a national to a transnational or regional level, the transformation of Operation Serval to Operation Barkhane or the G5 Sahel and its Joint Force feature most prominently. Yet, such a perspective neglects that already in early 2013 the African Union Commission initiated a series of meetings that led to the establishment of the Nouakchott Process, thereby rescaling their response to the violent conflict in Mali to the “Sahelo-Saharan region”. While both the G5 Sahel and the Nouakchott Process have similar aims regarding security in the Sahel, their definition and location of the Sahel differs. Consequentially the G5 Sahel is comprised of five countries in the region, whereas the Nouakchott Process includes eleven. Most strikingly perhaps is the inclusion of Algeria - a vital stakeholder in the Malian conflict - only in the latter. This provokes questions about the politics of including certain actors and marginalizing others. This contribution will reconstruct the establishment of the Nouakchott Process and the G5 Sahel by drawing on analytical vocabulary developed from methodological advances of the so-called spatial turn. I will analyze how actors communicate their particular political projects through spatial formats and how this leads to the inclusion or marginalization of (other) actors. Subsequently, the contribution will discuss the impact of this process on the African Peace and Security Architecture as well as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

L’Ecole de Maintien de la Paix ‘Alioune Blondin Beye’ (EMP), Bamako, Mali