There are currently three main threats that are facing the countries of the Sahel region.
The first is the threat of widespread hunger which is exacerbated by, not only the continuing violence across the region, but also the huge international food prices rises that have resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The second comes from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group and Russia’s predatory encroachments into Africa. If Wagner’s presence in Mali continues as it has in its first six months, there will be very serious consequences for the country and its neighbours. An inkling of the deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso is included in this issue of Sahara Focus. The spread of extremist activity into Togo and other West African coastal states is a related threat.
The third threat, and possibly the most serious from a Western perspective, is the seeming intensification of anti-French sentiment in many of its former colonies. There are many reasons for this and they vary slightly depending on local and national circumstances. The perceived arrogance of Paris and President Emanuel Macron has been something of a catalyst, but the main cause — besides straight-forward anti-colonialism — is the failure of Paris’ regional counter-terrorism strategy and especially the extraordinary and related failures of its military intelligence — on which Sahara Focus has frequently commented — which has done so much to intensify inter-ethnic conflict across much of the region.
If anti-French sentiment and action increases, it might not only precipitate its even wider withdrawal of from the region, but also a likely diminution of support for the Sahel from other European powers and the US. This would leave a large swathe of Africa open to military coups and dictatorships, as well as predatory Russian interests.
It would seem that the likelihood of these scenarios developing any further will very much depend on what happens in Niger, which is beginning to become something of a fulcrum state in the Sahel and the wider region. Further incidents of army atrocities, the embezzlement of state funds, and anti-French sentiment could have devastating consequences for Niger and wider region.This excerpt is taken from Sahara Focus, our monthly intelligence report on the Sahara region. Click here to receive a free sample copy.