Militant violence putting ‘generation at risk’ in Africa’s Sahel-WFP

In this photograph taken Wednesday Nov. 13, 2019 and released by the World Food Program (WFP), Zore Yusef, 61, right, and his family, join other refugees in the Pissila camp, north of the capital Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (AP)
Updated 20 November 2019

Militant violence putting ‘generation at risk’ in Africa’s Sahel-WFP

  • Groups with links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh have in recent years spread across the arid scrublands of the Sahel

GENEVA: Extremist violence in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has forced nearly 1 million people to flee their homes, destroyed fragile agricultural economies and hobbled humanitarian aid efforts, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
Groups with links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh, once confined to lawless areas of northern Mali, have in recent years spread across the arid scrublands of the Sahel, to the south of the Sahara, into Burkina Faso and Niger, stoking local ethnic conflicts and attacking security forces wherever they go.
“The world does not yet fully grasp the extent of the mounting humanitarian crisis in the central Sahel region,” said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel. “If we do not act now to tackle hunger in the Sahel, a whole generation are at risk.”
In all, 860,000 people have been displaced across the three countries and 2.4 million are in need of urgent food assistance, the WFP said. But a lack of security stops most of the aid reaching those in need.
Despite the presence of growing ranks of international troops, the violence continues to spread.
On Monday, unidentified gunmen killed 24 Malian soldiers and wounded 29 in an ambush that bore the hallmarks of a extremist attack. It was the third major attack against the army in less than two months that together have killed over 100 soldiers.
Those attacks mark a step-up in violence, according to records from Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, an NGO. In 2019, about 95 members of the Malian security forces, including soldiers, policemen, gendarmes and other officials, were killed. So far in 2019, about 249 have died.
Peace has been shattered in Burkina Faso, where in the first half of 2019 civilian deaths were four times what they were for the whole of 2018. One third of the country is now in a conflict zone, the WFP said. There were 480,000 people displaced at the end of 2018, which is expected to rise to 650,000 by the end of 2019.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.