Wednesday, 06.09.2023 - PSCC Talk - Zoom

PSCC Talks : The Sahel facing the specters of the crisis in Sudan and Niger: what could be the consequences of these crises on regional stability?

As part of its virtual conferences called “PSCC Talk”, the Peace and Security Office Sub-Saharan Africa Competence Center of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES PSCC) Dakar organized on Wednesday September 6, 2023 a virtual meeting on the theme: “The Sahel facing the specters of the crisis in Sudan and Niger: what could be the consequences of these crises on regional stability? The discussions aimed to analyze the impact of the war in Sudan and the outcome of the Niger crisis on security, humanitarian and migratory dynamics in the Sahel. Finally, it was a question of formulating relevant recommendations to prevent these situations from reinforcing the crisis in the Sahel. The meeting brought together around twenty experts, political actors and civil society organizations from Sudan, the Sahel region but also Benin and Togo.

For around ten years, the Sahel region has been facing hybrid and complex threat, including terrorism, cross-border crime, human trafficking, etc.

In 2023, the risk of destabilization of the entire region seems to have increased with the specter of the socio-political and security crisis in Sudan which has greatly worsened with confrontations between the forces of the two army generals: Abdel Fattah al - Burhane , head of the army who became head of the country, and Mohamed Hamdane Daglo , leader of the paramilitary force. Beyond the repercussions that this crisis could have on the Sahelo-Saharan Band, another event, the coup d'état that occurred in Niger on July 26, 2023 by the CNSP, reinforced the ideas of suspicion regarding a possibility of worsening instability throughout the region. Indeed, the political and diplomatic solutions to resolve these two crises appear compromised. In Sudan, all the initiatives of the international community, the Arab League and neighboring countries, to bring the belligerents to find a peaceful solution, have failed until now. As for Niger, the measures of military intervention to restore the constitutional order envisaged by ECOWAS seem eminent although negotiations are underway.

Ultimately, the evolution of these two crises poses additional threats to regional stability in the Sahel. To discuss it, the two experts, Dr Serigne Bamaba GayeSpecialist in peace, security and governance issues in Africa and Professor Munzul AssalProfessor of socio-anthropology at the University of Khartoum attempted to provide answers to the questions below, followed by the questions/contributions from the participants:

  • How can we assess the impact of the war in Sudan on the security, humanitarian and migratory situation in the Sahel? How can it influence regional and continental stability?
  • What are the possible scenarios in the case of an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger and its consequences on security and migration dynamics in the Sahel? What are the ways out of the crisis that take into account the vulnerability of the region?
  • What levers do the Sahel states have to contain the risks of spillover from the crises in Sudan and Niger?

At the beginning of their interventions, the two experts reviewed the socio-political and security context of Sudan from independence to the present day with a history punctuated by armed conflicts and coups d'état. In total, Sudan is experiencing its sixth coup d'état, not counting the multiple failed coup attempts over the decades. These struggles for power in addition to internal armed conflicts have contributed to weakening the state and political power. They have also contributed to the continued instability in the country with strong military interference in political life. The current crisis between the two generals who had excluded, in October 2021, civilians from the transition body installed after the coup d'état against Omar el-Bashir, in 2019, has already caused thousands of deaths (civilians and military) and millions of refugees in neighboring states (Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, etc.). According to the two experts, instability in Sudan can quickly spread along the Sahelo-Sahelian Band including to other African countries, particularly these neighbors, due to several key factors, namely:

  • Sociological, anthropological and cultural factors: Ethnic and tribal conflicts in Sudan have links to ethnic groups present in neighboring countries, which can lead to an escalation of cross-border violence.
  • Fragility of borders: Artificial borders in Africa are often porous, poorly defined and poorly controlled, making it easier for conflicts to spread from one country to another. And, the Sahelo-Saharan Band, which is an immense geographical area, extends over several juxtaposed regions which will be affected. It is an area already under tension, the origin of terrorism and numerous conflicts.
  • The Libyan example: the case of Libya is illustrative of how instability in a single country can spread throughout the region (after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, Libya became a hotbed of conflict and terrorism , feeding armed groups in neighboring countries, notably Mali and Niger). Indeed, prolonged instability in Sudan will inevitably have repercussions on the security situation in the Sahel, which lacks solutions to stem terrorism. The current situation in the Sahel is one of the consequences of the instability in Libya, and a war in Sudan could only increase terrorism in the Sahel and lead to a continental and intercontinental migration crisis.

As for Niger, since July 2023, an umpteenth coup has occurred and is added to a series of coups in less than three years in West Africa. ECOWAS, the sub-regional organization guaranteeing regional stability and respect for democracy, is struggling to contain this wave of coups which constitutes a real danger for regional stability. Political and diplomatic solutions seem to have failed for the moment and the imminence of a military intervention by the ECOWAS standby force is materializing day by day. However, a military intervention in this Sahel country already facing significant security challenges, in particular terrorist groups active in the region, can potentially worsen the situation in the country, throughout the Sahel region and spread towards the countries of the coastline.

Furthermore, the discussions allowed to demonstrate the inadequacies of sub-regional and continental organizations (ECOWAS, AU, etc.) in the management and resolution of these two crises. And in this sense, these crises could benefit terrorist groups in the short and medium term and accentuate already existing conflicts. In addition, they could have disastrous consequences on migration policies whose contents may be questioned and strengthen the networks of human trafficking, weapons, drugs, gold, etc. established throughout the Sahelo-Sahelian Band. In addition, there is an urgent need to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of displaced people who continue to increase from Sudan to neighbouring countries such as Chad and increase economic, food and security pressure on these regions. As a reminder, Chad is a key actor in the sub-regional fight against terrorism, particularly against Boko Haram. On the same path, one of the direct consequences of these two crises in the Sahel, if they are not resolved in time, could be the difficulty in the fight against climate change which constitutes a major trend difficult to reverse.

In terms of recommendations, the discussions demonstrated the urgency of:

  • addressing the root causes of governance in our countries while strengthening the system of democracy;
  • Solving problems gradually to overhaul societies and states with a view to stopping gangrene;
  • Strengthening regional and continental integration with institutions that fully play their role in the prevention and resolution of political crises and conflicts;
  • "Glo -localized" (local and global) approaches for more inclusion in crisis resolution;
  • Prioritizing political and diplomatic solutions to resolve these crises taking into account the vulnerability of populations;
  • Moving beyond institutional overlap for better efficiency and coherence in collective security approaches;
  • Strengthening cross-border cooperation in the fight against terrorism and organized crime;
  • Revitalizing sub-regional, continental and international solidarity to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the conflict in Sudan;
  • Taking migration and climate issues into account in crisis prevention and resolution processes to prevent the situation from getting worse.

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