This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood are joined by Sahel Project Director Jean-Hervé Jezequel to discuss how Sahelian states and their main backers in France can use dialogue and better governance to craft a more effective strategy against Islamist insurgents.
Jihadist violence continued unabated in north and PM Christophe Dabiré formed new cabinet following late-2020 elections. In northern Sahel region’s Oudalan province, army airstrikes 4 Jan killed ten Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants near Gountawola village; suspected ISGS militants next day assaulted civilians near Goungam town. In neighbouring Seno province, suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) or ISGS combatants 5 Jan abducted one in Bani commune; suspected ISGS militants 8 Jan killed three in Gorgadji commune. In Soum province (Sahel region), ISGS militants and militants from JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina and Ansarul Islam 2 Jan clashed in Tongomayel commune; at least ten fighters reportedly killed. Violence also persisted in North region. In Koumbri locality in Yatenga province, series of incidents took place early Jan: suspected Katiba Macina militants 4 Jan killed two volunteers (VDPs) fighting alongside security forces and four civilians; suspected VDP 7 Jan abducted two civilians at camp for internally displaced; suspected JNIM combatants 9 Jan clashed with security forces reportedly leaving one soldier and 11 militants killed. UN refugee agency 22 Jan said violence in and around Koumbri had displaced over 11,000 people, mostly women and children, since early Jan. French military 21 Jan said French troops 16-17 Jan killed over 20 jihadists in north near border with Mali. In Plateau-Central region, unidentified assailants 4 Jan stormed Loumbila village; six people killed, including two VDPs. In Cascades region in south west, body of Catholic priest Abbé Rodrigue Sanon, who went missing 19 Jan, was found 21 Jan in Toumousseni forest, 20km from regional capital Banfora. In East region, suspected JNIM militants 2 Jan abducted civilian in Kantchari commune, Tapoa province; suspected JNIM or ISGS militants next day abducted and killed councilman in Coalla commune, Gnagna province; suspected ISGS combatants 7 Jan abducted and next day executed two individuals in Foutouri commune, Komondjari province. President Kaboré, who was re-elected in late 2020, 5 Jan reappointed Christophe Dabiré as PM; Dabiré 10 Jan unveiled new 33-member cabinet featuring opposition figure Zephirin Diabré as state minister for “national reconciliation and social cohesion”.
Since 2013, when it sent troops to Mali, France has led international efforts to root out Islamist militancy from the Sahel. Yet the jihadist threat has grown. Paris and its partners should reorient their military-centred approach toward helping improve governance in the region.
La prolifération des groupes armés et l'implantation rapide des jihadistes a conduit, en 2019, à une intensification de la violence au Burkina Faso. Le gouvernement devrait adopter une approche intégrée de la sécurité et mettre fin aux crises du monde rural en résolvant notamment la question foncière.
Face à la percée jihadiste au Burkina Faso, porte ouverte sur les pays du Golfe de Guinée, ceux-ci craignent des attaques sur leurs territoires. Les Etats de la région devraient améliorer le partage du renseignement, renforcer les contrôles aux frontières et renouer un lien de confiance avec la population.
Au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Niger, le boom aurifère représente une nouvelle source de financement, voire un terrain de recrutement pour divers groupes armés, y compris jihadistes. Les Etats sahéliens devraient rétablir leur présence aux abords des mines d’or et mieux formaliser l’exploitation aurifère artisanale.
Créée en février 2017, la Force conjointe du G5 Sahel est une force de nouvelle génération dans un espace sahélien où se bousculent des initiatives militaires et diplomatiques parfois concurrentes. Il ne suffira pas de fournir des armes et de l’argent pour résoudre les crises sahéliennes. Pour atteindre ses objectifs, la force doit gagner la confiance des populations et des puissances régionales et obtenir leur soutien.
Jihadist violence in the West African Sahel has now spread to the north of Burkina Faso. The response of Ouagadougou and its partners must go beyond the obvious religious and security dimensions of the crisis, and any solution must take into account deep-rooted social and local factors.
Burkina is a gateway to coastal West Africa and there is a real concern that jihadist groups may see it as a launching pad to gain other footholds in the coastal region.
In Burkina Faso, the intelligence system did not rest on an institution but on the shoulders of one man, General Gilbert Diendere. We know that some of the 566 soldiers have joined jihadist groups.
There is a strong sense [in Burkina Faso] that the state has never really done much for the north. [...] Strengthening its military presence isn’t enough – they need to establish trust.
The new rulers [in Burkina Faso] want to use justice when it serves them but they don't want to sink their own ship.
Justice is important for the Burkinabe, and the lack of justice and impunity is one of the reasons people rose against [Burkina Faso's President] Compaore.
As Burkina Faso’s rural conflict rages, the country is also beset by urban unrest. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to lend support to election preparations and encourage the government to devote energy to the crisis in the countryside.
Burkina Faso is suffering mounting insurgent attacks and social unrest. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support the return of some Burkinabé troops from Mali and to fund social programs that could ease discontent.