West Africa: Sahel - Uncontrolled Threats Takes Hold

Working closely with the beneficiaries and local authorities, the “Construisons pour la Paix – Building for Peace” project is helping to revitalise the socio-economic environment in northern Mali. This project, funded by the G5 Sahel Facility Foundation, adopts a geographically focused and flexible “zonal” approach, to suit the changing context.

Immensely vast and still relatively lightly populated, the Sahel continues to be professed as a well-known region. However, for more than a decade, this region has never ceased to surprise by multiple mutations and various brutalities that have started, developed and are spreading there. The current decade atrocities can be boosted only by those that are currently exploding and spreading in Sudan since April 15, 2023. After Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the latest to join that scene of change, will it further aggravate the situation leading, by imitation effect, to another or more states?

With the continuous degradation of the environment, climate change is boosting insecurity within a rural world in the midst of upheavals. Both nomads and peasants are doubly victimized. Their traditional ruthless antagonisms, once linked to the course of seasons and now exploited by terrorist groups, further entrench insecurity and economic crisis in the region. In that context, whether accepted or decried, external assistance remains crucial to the return to stability.

The Alliance for the Sahel.

In the present new cold war environment, linked to the hot war in Ukraine, could international community interventions be coordinated in order to ensure their effectiveness in the Sahel, which also is at war?

In that connection, the Alliance for the Sahel  which met recently in Nouakchott, under German presidency - well accepted by all the parties - should help to ensure consistency and worthy results. To countries in crisis, the coherence of external partners' activities reinforces the effectiveness of their programs. Indeed, harmonious approaches, in the medium and long terms, remain desirable as their effectiveness, unlike ad hoc interventions, is more proven. Indeed, "insurance is expensive only before the accident".

To its partners, the Alliance for the Sahel is that insurance when it was launched in 2017 by European states including Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain plus the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and institutions such as the EIB, WB, ADB, and UNDP.

Its program and objectives respond to the priorities of a Sahel affected by multiple crises at the roots of the various insecurities that the region has been experiencing since the past decade. That program includes education and youth employment, energy and climate related issues. Policies dedicated to the most fragile areas are at the basis of the 1,200 projects worth 26.5 billion Euros.

A Sahel destabilized by its States administrative structures that continue to be weakened, in the total indifference of all including its external partners. The latters are themselves exposed to multiple political blackmails from another era. Very often condemned to silence or being accused of »colonialism leanings.

Public services deficits, particularly in qualified human resources, are such that, having become the rule, national governments cannot publically recognize them and thus accept to seek solutions. For their part, external partners are required to ignore that point, though essential to security and development, but said to be a national sovereignty or a governance issue, thus belonging to Presidents' "reserved area".

Renewal of imitation effects.

Coups d'états are multiplying in the Sahel, an imitation effect, say some observers or a search for a way out think others. No doubt however, they also are logical consequences of bad governance. Bad governance that - to avoid external condemnation - is presented as a national sovereignty issue.

With that mismanagement neglect , civil wars, illicit trade that includes drug trafficking in particular from Latin America and intended to European and Middle Eastern markets, prosper. Migration flows, still to Europe and massive informal gold sales to the Middle East, are exploding to the delight of local civil servants watching the unpunished corruption of their superiors. The continuous renewal and the constant reinforcement of these traffics remain closely linked. They consolidate terrorist movements and in fine the weakening of the increasingly « retribalized » states. More recently, faced with that « retribalization, » which strengthens financial crimes and "glorious corruption", terrorists are progressively seen as protectors and lesser rejected than before.

It is at this level that the region tragedy is set. It is also there that the real origins of Mali, Burkina Faso and Sudan present sufferings are to be found. With Niger, the last regime to fall this July 26, no doubt other states are on the waiting list. Their economies, more patrimonial than ever and more informal than in the past, generate fewer revenues for citizens and for states.

Moreover, cooperation with democracies, scapegoats of first choice, suffers. More than in the former European colonies in Asia and Latin America, in the Sahel, the former colonial powers continue to be presented as the sole cause of the countries various setbacks. Over sixty years after independence, or more than the duration of colonization itself, the argument remains fashionable!

While government rhetoric goes on, the jihadists are reorganizing themselves to prove their ability to adapt to changes on the ground. Thus, in Mali, a new group called "Wahdat Al - Mouslimine," or the "Muslims Unity" has announced its birth on social networks. It calls for an immediate end to the conflict in the Sahel between the JNIM (linked to AlQaeda) and the IS (linked to Daesh) "in order to preserve the blood of ordinary Muslims and to achieve their unity and healing." The appeal asserts the wish to ensure the unity of the two entities for the »struggle against the common front established by the governments with the Dozos, Volunteers for Peace and the Wagner Group ».

In other words, terrorists are invited to unify their efforts against the countries armies and to cease fighting between themselves. The call, which remains to be authenticated, aims at organizing a common front of the various rebellions to take advantage of the military, economic and diplomatic vacuums linked to the withdrawal of French and UN troops from the region. With jihadist leaders opting for more pragmatism on the ground, the impact of this call should be key.

In an ever stormier Sahel and where climate change is affecting livestock and agriculture - the populations' income bases - and where urbanization is exploding and corruption is siphoning off state revenues, migration to Europe should increase. To the delight of violent terrorist movements, but not only them, tensions and crises between the two regions should follow.

ln fine, the Alliance for the Sahel and other cooperation programs remain valuable and should continue. More than a simple continuity, the strengthening of Sahel - European Union relations remains essential to all the parties. And, beyond, to more others states.

Combating corruption that destroys states credibility and people trust in Leaderships is as essential as condemning military coups as well as rigged elections, another form of putsch.


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