Published on 31 Aug, 2020.
The crisis in the Sahel remains persistent, prevalent and shows no signs of abating in the coming months. Increased uncertainty in several regions compounded by huge upheaval and shifting of ground in Mali has heightened threat levels throughout the region. Halfway through 2020, the number of reported fatalities in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has either neared or surpassed the full total for each country in 2019. The driving force of the rising death toll has primarily been increased activities by jihadist groups, state forces and ethnic militias in the region. Violent clashes between jihadi groups—JNIM and ISGS can also be attributed to the increased death toll in the region. In the last 4 weeks, the political crisis in Mali has taken a number of turns: opposition protests continued which was followed by a mutiny and resignation of President Ibrahim Bobacour Keita. Attacks on local leaders continued as a Grand Imam was assassinated in northern Burkina Faso. To conclude, international, regional and local responses are in flux and the region has now entered a new unchartered phase with unclear outcomes, objectives and players going forward.
Insecurity in Burkina Faso remains high as jihadi activities continued in the north, Sahel and eastern regions. On August 1, at least six children were killed and four others wounded after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the town of Bembela in Tangaye department (Yatenga province, Nord region). In the Eastern region, one person—a municipal police officer was killed with 2 others injured following an attack by armed men in the Kantchari department—Tapoa province. The attack was initially a planned abduction of the police officer but the assailants shot him after the unsuccessful kidnap attempt. 20 civilians were also killed following an attack on the village of Namoungou in Fada N'Gourma commune. Few days later, a military vehicle struck an IED while travelling in the same area. At least 4 soldiers were killed. In the west, a base for the Volunteer for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) was attacked by armed men in the Barani Commune, Kossi Province killing 1 resident. Attacks on local leaders also continued as a Grand Imam was kidnapped by an armed group in the Soum Province while travelling back to Djibo from Ouagadougou. The Imam—Souaibou Cissé was later found dead in Tilere (Soum Province). In the capital,anti-government protest scheduled by former Blaise Compaore’s supporters has was banned by security forces. In response to the increasing insecurity, authorities have extended curfews imposed in the Eastern region until October 2.
The political crisis in Mali took a number of turns in Bamako while jihadi violence in the north continued. Protests for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita intensified earlier in the month. The protests were followed by a mutiny that resulted in the coup and resignation of President Keita, a development that has been condemned by the international community with the regional bloc ECOWAS imposing sanctions on Mali. The military—the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) currently controls the country however negotiations between the military junta, the opposition and ECOWAS to return to constitutional rule is ongoing. Former President Keita has been released following days of detention and is allegedly expected to leave the country. Karim Keïta—the president’s son, scrutiny for his lavish lifestyle and is allegedly been investigated. ECOWAS has issued a statement demanding the military regime to hand over power to a civilian transitional government and hold elections within a year. The military regime and opposition coalition—MF-RFP are yet to comment on ECOWAS’ decision. The general situation in Bamako is calm and stable, however, borders being closed could cause some economic issues in the long term. While some stability returned in the capital, violence continued particularly in the north following series of attacks by armed groups. On August 1st, armed men attacked a security checkpoint in Koutiala Cerle (Sikasso Region) killing at least 1 person and wounding 3 others. 3 soldiers were killed in an attack on a FaMA patrol and military camp—Goma Coura in the Segou region. In the Mopti region, militants ambushed a military anti-poaching patrol killing 4 soldiers and injuring 12 others. 4 soldiers were also killed in an IED attack in the Koro area of the region. The soldiers were part of a patrol team—Rapid Action Monitoring and Intervention Group (GARSI) that was patrolling the border with Burkina Faso. France, MINUSMA and other European powers have announced they would continue their operations during the transitional period. The United States and the European Union, on the other hand, have temporarily paused training activities. A longer involvement of the military in Bamako could lead to some disruption in the anti-jihadi effort as officers would be pulled out to the battlefield into Bamako. With several uncertainties, any form of transition needs to be holistic with the prime focus centering on the underlying problems that have troubled citizens cross the country.
Jihadi violence continued in the south-west— Tillaberi region and south-east—Diffa region while the thousands of people deal with floods. On 9th August, at least 8 people including 6 French nationals were killed in an attack in the Koure Area, Tillaberi region. The attack was followed by an counter-terrorism operation by Barkhane forces but no group has been identified as the perpetrators of the attack. Authorities have also extended the state of emergency in the Tillaberi region to additional prefectures in the Koure area. Some anti-terrorist operations were successful after 11 Boko Haram hostages were freed by the Nigerien armed forces in the Diffa region. The humanitarian crisis caused by floods has worsened as local authorities report 45 deaths and 226,000 displaced persons. Multiple areas in the south of the capital, particularly in the Aeroport districts—around Diori Hamani International Airport (NIM), have been the worst affected by flooding as the Niger River burst its banks after several days of sustained heavy rainfall. Roads in other parts of the Niamey—Harobanda neighbourhood have been blocked by floodwaters. The crisis poses a high risk of further C-19 infection in the upcoming weeks. Niger currently recorded 1,176 cases and 69 deaths.
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