Sahel Security Report - November 2020

Published on 30 Nov, 2020.


Militants carried out sustained attacks in the Sahel in November, especially in Mali which saw many fatalities. Besides the regular attacks on security personnel and civilians, several protests spread throughout the Sahel following comments by French President Emmanuel Macron which were considered anti-Islamic. In Burkina Faso militants killed 13 soldiers on November 24 but elections in the country did not descend into widespread violence as feared. President Kabore was declared the winner despite 400,000 Burkinabes disenfranchised due to insecurity in conflict-affected areas—northern and eastern regions.


Violence continued in the north and eastern parts of Burkina Faso in the last 4 weeks. Elections were held relatively peacefully despite major concerns of insecurity. The insecurity however affected smooth elections as 400,000 were disenfranchised because elections were not organised in some regions. Current President Marc Roch Kabore emerged winner of the elections but his party failed to gain a majority in the National Assembly though reports suggest the President is working with other parties for a possible alliance. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants killed 13 Burkinabe soldiers and a gendarme during an attack on a military convoy in the area of Adjarara in Oudalan province. This was the most significant loss of Burkinabe soldiers since August 2019, when ISGS militants raided a military camp in Koutougou. In the days following the attack, French forces launched a series of retaliatory airstrikes against ISGS positions. On November 24th, unidentified gunmen killed five Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) members during clashes in Arbinda commune in the Soum province. The incident occurred in the village of Arra after the VDPs were informed of the presence of armed men in the area. Three other VDP members are reported missing. State authorities have taken new measures to mitigate the crisis in their respective regions. The governor of the Sahel region has banned public and mixed transport to and from border countries to cope with the security challenges. The governor also extended the existing curfew in the region by 45 days i.e from December 1st to January 14th. In the eastern region, curfew has been extended by 60 days i.e December 1st to January 29th to aid with the fight against terrorism in the region.

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The insecurity in Mali continued following attacks from militants in the Mopti and Gao regions. Several people stormed a United Nations peacekeeping (MINUSMA) base during the protests following comments over ‘anti-Islam’ issued by the French President. The backlash comes amid sustained operations by French forces targeting jihadi elements Mali. Dozens of militants were killed near Ntillit in Gao region during a French air-strike against Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) militants from the Ansaroul and Katiba Gourma factions. Senegal, Protests against President Macron’s comments were also reported in Mauritania and Nigeria. Executions of local leaders continued as suspected militants killed the Imam of N'Débougou in Niono, Ségou region on November 2nd. The incident resulted in sporadic clashes between the Dozo hunters and Fulani herdsmen. 24 hours later, unidentified militants ambushed a minibus between the settlements of Parou and Songhobia—Mopti Region killing 8 passengers. On November 13, French government officials announced the killing of JNIM commander Bah ag Moussa in the Menaka Region after military operations. The former Malian army colonel was second in command of the Al Qaeda-linked group, working closely with its leader Iyad Ag Ghali. Four civilians were killed in the village of Minimakanda—Mopti Region following two militant attacks on November 23rd and 24th. Soldiers reportedly deployed to the village on November 25th, following reports of the attacks. Attacks continued as armed men killed 6 farmers and wounded another near the village of Farabougou in the Koulikoro region. In Gao, Kidal, and Menaka, Simultaneous rocket attacks were also reported around military camps in Kidal, Gao and Menaka on November 30th. According to local sources, the attacks occurred near camps that housed international forces.

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The upcoming December 27 elections have caused tension to flare in Niger. With President Issoufou stepping down, the ruling party’s candidate, Mohamed Bazoum has faced accusations of being born abroad and there ineligible to run for the high office while opposition candidate, former PM Hama Amadou faced similar challenges to eligibility over past one-year prison sentence. The Constitutional court published the final list of candidates on December 1. Militant activity continues to remain a security concern as ISGS and Boko Haram fighters operate in the Diffa and Tillaberi regions. The government has, however, reiterated its commitment to the fight against militant cells as the Defense Minister announced government plans to double the size of the army by 2025. This position comes after the French government announced plans to reduce French deployment in the Sahel. Security in the next two to four weeks is crucial as Nigeriens prepare for the polls. Voter turnout could be affected as a. result of the insecurity, particularly in the Diffa and Tillaberi regions.

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