In Africa’s Sahel region, the “Group of Five” (G-5), which includes Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso, has seen increased militant activity since late 2020. The Sahel region has become one of the largest active UN Peacekeeping missions, as G-5 Sahel nation forces and UN Peacekeepers work closely in an attempt to disarm the situation. Varying militant groups are operating within the region and have ties with Islamic extremist terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram, JNIM, and Ansar al-Islam.
This year, militants have increased their operations and intensified their attacks on security forces and civilians. Earlier in the year, in January, more than 100 people were killed in a village in Niger by a militant attack. This April, Chad’s President Idriss Déby and military commander succumbed to his injuries due to another aggressive militant attack. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Office, an estimated 5.4 million civilians have been impacted by the ongoing situation. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, stated that the problem is worsening and that joint forces are facing difficulties and challenges in controlling the violence.
Further challenges include severe flooding in the Sahel region, which has displaced more than 1.7 million people, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to significant economic downturn and recessions in the G-5 Sahel nations. Both of these crises have led to the restructuring of budgets which has seen the funding for security operations in the area dwindle. According to a report conducted by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in conjunction with the G-5 Sahel Joint Forces, funding for the operations is a major concern and the United Nations is urging nations to increase international funding for the continued peacekeeping operations, as Mr. Lacroix explains, “Faced with the situation in the Sahel, the international community must be motivated by a shared responsibility to act…in a spirit of solidarity with the populations of the region”.
With millions of people already being affected and a worsening conflict with increased challenges arising in protecting the civilians and maintaining peace in the Sahel region, further international support and funding must continue.