Highlight 3/2023 – How security challenges impede on the socioeconomic agenda of the countries in the Sahel region
Wendegoudi Jacqueline Ouédraogo, 18 January 2023
Any development program is dependent on the peaceful and secure environment in which it should be implemented. The Sahel countries composed at large by the ten countries located in Africa are no exception.
In fact, for the past ten years the Sahel region has been facing diverse security challenges including armed attacks, violent extremism, terrorism, cross border trafficking, transnational organized criminality, and community conflicts. The deterioration of the security context in the Sahel countries is directly linked to the consequences of the war in Libya which led to the proliferation and displacement of terrorists and armed groups in the region. Other indirect and remote root causes are inter alia governance issues, unequal wealth distribution, poverty, social and institutional disorganization during colonization and after independence, which brought new social norms that are not aligned with ancient values.
This situation has dramatically worsened in Central Sahel, specifically in the Liptako-Gourma region (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) where attacks are perpetrated by various non-state armed groups (NSAG) mainly affiliated to AQMI in the Sahel, Boko Haram, Ansaroul Islam (Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin- JNIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
These NSAG operate by ambushes against defense and security service personnel, improvised explosive devices, mass killings of civilians, and destruction of common goods. Attacks on health infrastructures, cultural sites, properties, schools, bridges, telecommunication infrastructures remain rampant with displacement of populations, absence of public services, etc.
The cost of rebuilding new infrastructures for the continuation of public services and local populations to live decently is immense for governments, vulnerable populations and future generations. As a result, spending on securitization, containment, and counter terrorism activities has significantly increased for these countries. GDP losses, the negative impact on the informal economy and on foreign direct investment are visible on the ground. The immediate consequence of this is the delay in the development of infrastructure as the key priority is now security and peace.
To solve this problem, most countries in the region reoriented their national budgets to prioritize security infrastructures building, capacity building in military and defense forces. This situation dramatically impedes on the socio-economic agenda in these developing countries which are classified among the least developed countries as demonstrated by their ranking on the Human Development Index.
However, if the different countries facing security challenges are to overcome this troublesome situation, there is an absolute necessity for international solidarity and cooperation in fighting terrorism and its causes as well as its consequences. Support in arms, capacity building, social and economic reorganization are key. Otherwise, terrorism will continue to thrive and adversely impact the globe. The recent war in Ukraine should not divert attention away from the dire situation in the Sahel region, as it must remain a top priority on the agenda of the international community and the various international organizations that seek to advance peace, security, stability and democracy.
Respect for human rights and international law in combatting terrorism and the other security threats remains one of the biggest challenges of the Sahel region while armed groups operate unimpeded and with impunity, leaving governments with questions on how the international community can help to stop terrorism and hopefully build a better future for the people. There will be no peace for any part of the globe if terrorism and other security issues runs rampant in other parts. This is particularly true when considering the dire situation in the Sahel region which faces a security crisis that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned poses a global threat. There is, therefore, an immediate urgency for quick actions. International and regional bodies, governments and leaders must work together to strengthen good governance to address the root causes of terrorism and fully support regional initiatives to end terrorism in the Sahel. To this end, the international community must strive to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity and allocate sufficient resources to fight terrorism in the Sahel region.
Wendegoudi Jacqueline Ouédraogo, Highlight 3/2023 – How security challenges impede on the socioeconomic agenda of the countries in the Sahel region, 18 January 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.