The Central Sahel: A Perfect Sandstorm

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Migrants sit on pick-up trucks as they leave the outskirts of Agadez for Libya, 1 June 2015. AFP/Issouf Sanogo


The Central Sahel: A Perfect Sandstorm

Dakar/Brussels: The huge, sparsely populated, impoverished Sahel is affected by growing numbers of jihadi extremists and illicit activities, including arms, drugs and human trafficking, estimated to generate $3.8 billion annually. Borders are porous, government reach limited. Populations and unemployment are soaring. Within this perfect storm of actual and potential instability, criminal networks increasingly overrun Central Sahel – the Fezzan in Libya’s south, Niger and the Lake Chad Basin. State authority is weak in relatively stable Niger. To the south, the radical Islamist, primarily Nigerian, Boko Haram insurgency is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million displaced. Western and regional counter-terrorism efforts are insufficient, but neither have more integrated approaches proposed by the EU and UN borne fruit. Without holistic, sustained action against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, instability is likely to spread and exacerbate radicalisation and migration.

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The Central Sahel’s trajectory is worrying. Violence is set to continue, if not escalate, against the backdrop of growing population and environmental stresses. Youth have little ways to express themselves and are left to choose between criminalisation, radicalisation or migration.
Emilio Manfredi, Consulting Analyst

Emilio Manfredi
EJ Hogendoorn

To reverse the Sahel’s deepening instability, particularly in already precarious Niger, national governments and external actors should recalibrate their policies to address the causes and effects of state instability: poverty, corruption, youth unemployment and alienated peripheries.
EJ Hogendoorn, Deputy Africa Program Director @ejhogendoorn

Comfort Ero

Military efforts to combat insecurity cannot succeed alone. Without measures to improve governance, limit state corruption, create economic opportunities and strengthen democratic institutions, local governments and the international community will fail to rally the support of local populations against criminal and militant groups.
Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director @EroComfort

Jean-Marie Guéhenno

Peace in the Sahel requires much more than a counter-terrorism strategy that is too often perceived as western support to bankrupt regimes. Corruption and collapsing public services are destroying the legitimacy of states in the region. Development aid of international partners must take the long view and prioritise accountability and provision of basic public services.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO @JGuehenno






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