Published on 28 Feb, 2021.
The persistent security crisis in the Sahel has escalated in the past four weeks with renewed activity in traditional areas whilst expanding into new territories viz. eastern Senegal. Violent attacks on civilian and military targets continued in the area particularly in Mali. Support for the transitional government in Mali is waning following several criticisms and calls for the dissolution of the transnational national assembly. The process of restoring stability in the Kidal region has resumed as signatories of the 2015 Algiers agreement meet in mid-February untangle the issue that has stalled for half a decade. Tensions in Niger escalated as violence ensued during protests in Niamey over the presidential run-off results. Concerning counter terrorist operations, France has maintained its commitment to reduce its military presence in the Sahel. President Macron has said although not an immediate drawdown French forces withdrawal is inevitable. Military presence in the region has also been bolstered following the deployment of 1,200 Chadian troops in the tri-border area. More international cooperation is expected in short to mid-term as Senegal boosted its efforts to join the G5 Sahel. Negotiations with regional jihadist leaders are also expected in the next 6-8 months as the Sahelian authorities have announced possibilities of dialoging with armed groups in the region.
Security in Burkina Faso remains precarious as both jihadist and security forces operations continue across the region. In the Sahel region, unidentified armed men ambushed a convoy in the Oudalan province killing 9 people and injuring 10 others. The incident occurred between Markoye and Tokabangou. Majority of the victims are reported to be merchants travelling to a market in Doubel—a village located 16 miles off the Nigerien border. The attack targeted a group of people given the fact that the assailants selected and killed members of the same family. The ethnic group of the victims remains unknown. Highways ambushes are prevalent in Burkina Faso as armed men hide in bushes around highways with the targeting travellers mostly for money and other valuables—food, mobile phones and motors. A security establishment was targeted as police patrol in Sahel region was ambushed that injuring 1 officer. In the east, a triple point encampment position in the interaction of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger was attacked by armed men on February 15. No fatality was reported as Beninese soldiers intervened and neutralized the situation. Insecurity in the south has heightened in the last 4 weeks following multiple attacks in the south west. On February 9th armed men attacked a gendarmie post in Ouo, Comoe Province (Cascades Region). Reports suggest the post was raided by a dozen assailants at night killing an officer. In the Ganoa province, at least 6 people were killed in an attack on a gold mine in Djikando. The militants also injured 29 people during the raid. This incident highlights the heightened interest of armed groups in artisanal mining operations. Armed groups have increased their efforts to control mines to create new avenue for jihadist operations and other illicit operations such as money laundering.
The crisis in Mali has remained unchanged as on civilians and security forces suffered continuous armed attacks. The situation in Bamako remains calm despite several discontent with the transitional government. The opposition coalition and other member of the public continue to raise several concerns on the performance of the transitional government some of which has led to calls for the dissolution of the transitional national assembly (CNT). Attacks on security forces were frequent in the Mopti region. JNIM fighters continued attacks on security forces and infrastructure in the Douentza commune killing at least 9 soldiers during an attack on an army base in Boni. 20 MINUSMA soldiers suffered injuries during an attack by jihadists on a security establishment Kerena. A G5 Sahel force base was also shelled by armed groups (possibly JNIM linked) in Boulikessi. On 23rd February, jihadists ambushed a detachment of Malian troops from the 53rd Rapid Response Company killing 2 soldiers and injuring 7 others. The incident occurred in the Mopti region. 48 hours later, another security establishment was attacked by militants in Bandiagara killing at least 9 soldiers. Over a dozen fighters were killed following a French drone strike in town of Tinwoussouk—Tombouctou region. Peace talks on the 2015 Algiers agreement resumed in the Kidal region as the Malian government continues to restore it legitimacy in the area following the Tuareg rebellion in 2012. Initial progress was made as the Malian flag was hoisted in the area but tensions resulted in the lowering of the flag. New partnerships are expected in the counterterrorism campaign in the Sahel as the Chadian government deployed 1,200 soldiers into the flashpoint border zone between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Reports have also emerged that Senegal is increasing its efforts to join the G5 Sahel after Senegalese President Macky Sall was invited to just ended G5 Sahel summit. President Sall is also reported to have paid the Executive Secretariat of the G5 Sahel 1.5 million euros.
Like Mali and Burkina Faso, the situation in Niger remained unchanged as forces were subject to continual attacks, particularly from Boko Haram and ISWAP in the south west. In the Tillaberi region, residents are still recovering for the multiple attacks from armed groups that killed more than 80 civilians in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye. 50 people were killed in Tchombangou while 30 died in Zaroumdareye. On 22nd February, convey carrying members of Niger’s National Independent Electoral Commission struck a landmine in the town of Dargol, Tillaberi region killing 7 people and injuring 3 others. 2 people have been killed in the capital (Niamey) following protests against election results. Supporters of the losing candidate Mahamane Ousmane took to the streets in support of the claims made by the opposition. Mr. Ousmane has argued the presidential run-off is fraudulent following the electoral commission declaring the ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum's win. Hundreds—468 of the opposition supporters have been arrested but protests are expected to continue. ECOWAS observers have the refuted claims of electoral fraud stating the elections was conducted under free / fair and transparent conditions.
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