Sahel Security Report - October 2020

Published on 30 Oct, 2020.


Violence insurgency and political instability continues in the Sahel as fatal incidents were recorded across the region and many political outcomes still in flux. Tensions between armed groups resurfaced as fighters from JNIM and ISWAP were killed following several clashes in Burkina Faso. In Mali, the transitional government succeeded in securing the release of French aid worker Sophie Petosin and opposition leader Soumila Cisse following months of negotiations. Allegations of human rights abuses by security forces also resurfaced after the Malian forces were accused of extrajudicial killings and human right violations. Security in the next 4-8 weeks is crucial in the region, particularly in Burkina Faso as the country prepares for its election in November. Reports have suggested the elections could problematic as polls cannot be held nationwide given the deterioration of security, Eastern, Nord and Centre Nord regions. Strategic and operational considerations are at play across the regions yet recent gains with the onset of the rains may be capitialies in some regions as negotiations continue and political avenues explored.


In-fighting between JNIM and ISWAP reemerged earlier this month as several fighters were killed in clashes between the two factions. Violence on civilians also continued in the Centre Nord region as 25 people were killed by unidentified armed men in the town of Pissila.Attacks were also reported in Demniol, Bombofa and Peterguese—Nord region resulting in 24 casualties. In the Centre Nord, attacks were reported and 12 people were killed after a town in the Seno Province was attacked by Islamic State fighters. Operations against extremists also continued in the region as the government tries to ensure some security ahed of elections this month. In the Oualadan province, Burkinabe forces killed 7 people accused of assisting militants. With regards to the general elections, voter participation especially in the Nord, Centre-Nord, Sahel and Eastern is expected to be low as a result of the insecurity.

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Militant activity remained high in Mali over the month. Several attacks have beenrecorded across central and northern Mali—Mopti region. On October 6th, 3 soldiers were killed following an ambush by unidentified armed men in the village of Birga, Koro Cerle—Mopti region. Six days later, 25 people were killed in multiple attacks in Mopti. The first attack was on a military base in Sokoura near the Burkina Faso border. The second attack occurred near the town of Bandiagara where militants killed 12 traders and a solider. In the Koulikoro region, security forces regained control of the town of Farabougou after armed groups took control of the town for 2 weeks. Tensions among groups have resurfaced in the Mopti region after JNIM and Islamic State factions engaged in clashes, killing several fighters. In Bamako, the transitional government succeed in negotiating the release of French aid worker Sophie Petronin and Malian opposition leader Soumila Cisse who had held hostage for 4 years and 7 months respectively after the government released 180 prisoners (militants). Two other Italian nationals were also released. Reports from Bamako have suggested the transitional government’s intentions to resume negotiation with extremist groups in the region following a meeting between the Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drain. Negotiations seem possible but various grey areas need to be addressed before official talks begin. Several demonstrations were also reported in Mali in opposition to the statements on Islam issued by the French President.

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Concerns of insecurity remain particularly in the Diffa and Tillaberi region as the government continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. In dealing with the pandemic, the government has extended the state of health emergency by 3 months to January 2021. Concerning the security crisis, the risk remains high as an American national was kidnapped in the border town of Birin Konni—Tahona region. Clashes between Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters was reported in Island of Gadia—Diffa region. In the capital, anti-government demonstrations occurred after protesters expressed their discontent of alleged authoritarian tendencies of the government. The protests are critical as Nigeriens are scheduled to go to the polls on December 27th, as any form of tension could have political implications in the short to medium term.

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There are some positives and casualty numbers are down but may be temporary with the onset of the dry season increasing mobility. Increased willingness on both sides to enterian dialogue is again significant as is further assistance from international partners is helping particularly with the air support and unmanned reconconnisance. Last weeks French stike is an example in point. Elections in and continuing humanitarian problems will make the last 2 months of 2020 challenging but there there now is a sense of optimism that has been lacking throughout the year.

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