Sahel Sahara the same uncertainties

It is over with 2018. The New Year 2019 inherits the same structural problems: more conflicts and more migrations. Both are the results of armed radicals’ groups terrorist activities and governments’ ambiguous policies. Though indispensable, the external military presence is now in question.



Good plan and perfect plan.

Karl van Clausewitz advised that « the enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan ». This is even truer of the Sahel conflicts, which are essentially ‘’ideological’’ and sectarian. In the Sahel, and around Lake Chad, the pursuit of the perfect plan continues while the crisis gets its roots deeper. A crisis that, at the same time, looms towards the Gulfs of Guinea and of Benin while it keeps growing in Libya.

Indispensable, the military intervention deals with the symptoms of a conflict and not with its roots causes. Military on the frontline should be understood and supported by national political fronts. A position that is yet to be effective. Bilateral and multinational military troupes deployed in the Sahel do not always receive the sincere backing of local governments. That ambiguity is a handicap to their effectiveness. Worse, despite proven corrupt practices, some states call for the direct management of multilateral funds earmarked for peacekeeping and the fight against irregular migrations. With limited, or no training, national armies have no motivations to combat.

Around Lake Chad areas there is a surge in combats including on 2 January. A link to Nigeria presidential elections. While Mali persistent weaknesses are further dramatized by the killing of 35 Fulanis on this 1 January, Burkina Faso remains subjected to a suspicious fury of terrorists. The attacks are multiplying though they seem to be targeting states further south: Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast. Countries that are more densely populated, richer and geographically  more hospitable to guerrillas’ warfare.

On the Eastern Sahel, efforts to resolve the Libyan tragedy may not lead to a quick or lasting solution. That will be more so if especially Sudan does not resolve its structural crisis and if Chad remains under terrorists threat.

Continuing to invent and glorify a heroic past, which demonizes their external partners, some countries are weakening their own national cohesion within the borders inherited from colonization. Hence, their fight against radicals and secessionist groups becomes much more difficult. Indeed this posture does not resolve conflicts while the prevalent politically correct environment absolves our regimes from the tragic consequences resulting from the deficits of their own management.

Thus, the denial of reality makes it possible to blame the Libyan crisis only on external interventions that ended Colonel Gaddafi regime. A regime, much more than a state, that during its lifetime, 1969 -2011, destroyed its own state institutions starting with the army and destabilized its lesser  wealthy neighbors: Mali, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Tunisia. Algeria and Egypt escaped only thanks to showing their muscles.

To date, a credible solution remains a remote possibility. The breakup of the country in at least three parts – Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan – remains a likely possibility. Leaving the management of the crisis to Italy, that considers it a strategic posture, and especially one of honor, as once and still again in Somalia, may be helpful.

Orphans, in other words without resolute Godfathers, internal crises can last forever. They feed themselves from their own disasters.

Instigated by near or distant origins, external interferences are part of international life. Therefore, resolving an internal conflict engages, first and foremost, the responsibility of a country own nationals. In the first place that means the ruling government and also the opposition parties as well as civil society’s organizations. The establishment of national fronts may prevent or mitigate crises and consolidate peace. In many Sahelian countries, the solution of political fronts is rejected in the name of democracy. That is so even in countries where elections are doubtful or actually unlikely.

While a convenient political expedient, blaming external powers, as responsible of external plots, does not resolve domestic conflicts. Restoring the authority of the state, or more precisely its usefulness, is much more urgent and more decisive.

Vast international migrations, often a run-away from local difficulties, are connected to this environment seen as a hopeless one.

Intricate international migrations.

Some ruling elite’ greed, monopolizing national revenues, is fueling threats on the environment and also feeding international migrations. These irreversible threats are ignored by voracious appetites associated to fishing, mining and deforestation interests.

This year 2019 will thus be also marked by the migration issues. It should remain strong due to the absence of a demographic transition that is still taboo and still also linked, but only partially, to insecurity. The hot spots established in Niger did not resolve the difficulties and in any case less drastically than the organized, and vastly mediatized, violence against African migrants in Libya last spring. Therefore, and as expected, migratory movements turned towards the « Western Road » that to the Canaries Islands as in the early 2000’s.

Marrakech Pact on Migration was adopted by 152 countries (5 states voting against the United States, Honduras, Israel, Poland and the Czech Republic) and 12 abstentions including Algeria. Like the United States, Europe is the most concerned but not the most affected by migrations (out of 258 million international migrants, the majority live in neighboring countries). Thus 53 percent of African migrants remain in Africa. Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the states with the highest number of migrants.

However, the problem of Europe, destination countries, remains how to cooperate with states of transit and departure of migrants.

The year 2019 will also be the year of presidential elections in the Sahel Sahara: Algeria, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. Their process, more or less transparent, will consolidate democracy or use coups d’état as unavoidable alternatives to political abuse (link).

Center4s best wishes for 2019 go to:

  1. The rural and outer urban populations, the most frequent victims of the fight carried out on their name and also to all the soldiers present in the Sahel and that confront habitually protected enemies and frequently ambiguous alliances.
  2. Algeria and Morocco, resolving or at least freezing contentious issues, to work together towards a common approach for the stability of the Sahel and their own.
  3. To France, the largest military assistance provider to the region, so that it could help the Sahel countries to look further forwards, into the future, and not into the rear mirror. And that the US, ‘’the indispensable nation’’, keeps promoting democracy, freedom and transparency.