Editor’s Note: February 19, 2019
Should we be paying more attention to the Sahel?
Burkina Faso’s foreign minister has warned that the threat posed by Islamist militants in the Sahel is spreading to coastal countries in West Africa.
Recent attacks on the country’s border with Ghana and Cote d’ivoire – two of the region’s leading economies – show that “it’s no longer just the Sahel”, Alpha Barry said at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.
The so-called G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad, Mali and Niger – have become a hotbed of instability, fueled by the fallout of Muammar Gaddafi’s demise in Libya, and widespread underdevelopment.
This has provided fertile ground for groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
High profile attacks in recent years have spurred international efforts to counter them. The flagship initiative is the multilateral G5 Sahel Joint Military force, launched in 2017. Bogged downby poor coordination and funding shortages, this is struggling to make an impact.
With economic conditions across much of West Africa not much better than in the G5 countries, the region could be susceptible to similar instability as in the Sahel.
The Boko Haram insurgency in north east Nigeria, which has alleged links to other Islamist groups, shows the potential for destabilization.
It’s too soon to panic, but this is one to watch.
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