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 Gaye, Specialist in peace, security and governance issues in Africa and Professor Munzul Assal, Professor of socio-anthropology at the University of Khartoum attempted to provide answers to the questions below, followed by the questions/contributions from the participants:
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:
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:
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