Several African countries including the G5 Sahel of Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania, as well as France, are holding talks in Chad’s capital city, N’Djamena, to address the unstable security dynamics in the Sahel region. This comes as 100 civilians were killed just this week in a Burkina Faso village, one of the bloodiest days in the country’s recent history.
The growing list of recent attacks has prompted governments in the region to pressure the French in addition to other international partners to increase their military presence. Just last year, France pledged an additional 600 troops to the region, but now it has signaled strategy adjustments. The recent militant attacks across the Sahel, part of the broader Salafi-jihadi movement, threaten the economic and political health of these nations.
In the wake of the bloodshed in Burkina Faso, policymakers and government leaders must address two obvious, and urgent questions at their summit. First, what do these extremists want? And, second, how can regional players combat this violence more effectively?
The terrorism sweeping through the region has led to further erosion of trust between citizens and the Burkina-Faso government and highlighted how ineffective and ill-equipped many of these nations’ militaries are. Economic development cannot occur without economic stability, and stability cannot occur without a secure and peaceful civil society. This is true not only in the Sahel region but in other parts of Africa and throughout much of the developing world.
Organizations strive to create inspiring visions for what Africa can become. Some people like to talk about how proper economic development can be achieved, which includes everything from microfinance projects to World Bank initiatives, to the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Others talk about social and human development advances, like gender equality and education policies. The harsh reality is that if militants continue to wreak havoc on communities across the Sahel region, these goals are completely unrealistic. It is imperative, therefore, for policymakers from sovereign governments and multilateral alike to devote significant focus and resources to combating and defeating this extremism.
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