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The Sahel Is In Crisis, And Africa Is Watching

Coen van Wyk

Posted on June 8, 2019 10:32

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After the destabilisation of Tunisia and Libya Algeria has been trying to keep some stability. But the real danger is in the Sahel, the vast region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan. West African countries are taking emergency measures, but already Boko Haram endangers Nigeria, and Ghana and Cameroon is feeling the heat.

Boko Haram has become the normal as far as news coverage is concerned, but Sudan is now at the focus of international attention. The iron-fisted President Al Bashir has resigned, and his military, backed by the Janjaweed militia and with support from Saudi Arabia, has tried to end the popular uprising. The African Union is, however, taking a more strategic view, and has sanctioned the military government in Khartoum, just as reports of a massacre of protesters emerge.

Protesters in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo AFP

A study by researchers of the Institute of Security Studies maps the development of terrorist attacks throughout West Africa. In very diplomatic language they point out that extremists flourish in areas where the “social contract between the state and citizens is weak or non-existent.” Criminal and illegal groups also support and shelter extremists, who, in turn, finance themselves through activities like drug smuggling and exploitation of informal gold mining.

Nigeria has admitted that large parts of its north-east is a no-go area, and lately reports of kidnappings have been received from Togo, Benin, Ghana and Cameroon, indicating that the established, and often complacent governments in these countries have much to fear.

Regional response to the threat has mostly been military: increased exchange of intelligence; co-ordinated military and security operations, and international participation like the French Operation Barkhane, but the upward trend of incidents continues.

Ché Guevara was of the opinion that the mere creation of a focal point of resistance would prompt government reaction that would, by its excesses, create resistance against the government. In the countries where insurgents are active, it is the lack of governance that provides the breeding ground for resistance. Ham-handed military operations alienate populations due to ‘collateral damage’ and drive them into the hands of the insurgents.

Displaced people - a humanitarian crisis. Photo Reuters


Foreign military aid, based on international agendas, often cause unpopular leaders to stop trying to win the support of their people, and to use military superiority to increase oppression. But in this era of asymmetrical warfare, insurgents operate where government is absent, and listen and talk to often marginalised populations, and so spread their influence.

French troops in Niger - asymmetrical warfare. Photo Asian Defence News 



As long as violence remains the most effective way to solve problems, the trend towards violent opposition against unrepresentative governments will continue. The only vaccine against terrorism is good governance. Only a government based on the ground level population can be considered stable and secure. 

Coen van Wyk

Posted on June 8, 2019 10:32

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Source: Reuters

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Saturday pledged greater military assistance to the former...

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