United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday, November 14 that the activities of armed groups in the Sahel-Saharan region of Africa would rise.
Guterres stressed that the growing terrorism of armed groups in the West African region makes them unstable and insecure, especially in Burkina Faso and Mali, enhancing the ability for ethnic violence in these two countries.
The UN secretary-general explained that the G5 Sahel forces – created by the West African countries Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania – are combating terrorist organizations in that insecure region, pointing out that the inability of those forces to counter terrorist operations carried out by armed organizations due to the lack of training, capacity and equipment.
Guterres emphasized the importance of tackling terrorism, which he described as a “global issue,” warning of the difficult challenges faced by UN and international forces, as well as other cross-border challenges, including the trafficking of humans, illicit goods, weapons and drugs.
Pompeo and ISIS
At a meeting of coalition countries that was held on Thursday, November 14, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the fight against ISIS must continue until the terrorist organization is finally eliminated after the killing of its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month.
Pompeo confirmed that ISIS is now attempting to achieve its dream of a caliphate in the Sahel and West Africa following its collapse in Syria and Iraq.
He pointed out that the terrorist organization’s arms should be cut off in Southwest Asia, West Africa and the Sahel, adding that attention must be paid to development and fighting against armed groups in the Sahel.
UEMOA and financing the fight against terrorism
On the other hand, specifically in Senegal’s capital Dakar, the Economic and Monetary Union of the West African Community (UEMOA) financed the countries of the Sahel region with more than $500 million to fight terrorism in that large desert area. The UEMOA includes eight countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Senegalese Foreign Minister Amadou Ba said on Friday, November 15 that there needs to be a convergence in the regions security policies, according to the website La Vie Senegalaise, adding that the new challenges emerging on the continent make them more apprehensive about their lives.
The Senegalese foreign minister added that terrorism will not be combated only through financial intervention or development, but through the availability of intelligence and security information of some elements of armed organizations in the Sahel.
Established in 2014, the G5 powers are seeking to curb the spread of armed organizations and to defeat terrorism, as the African Sahel region possesses valuable resources and is an important hub for major countries. Its security and stability is also crucial for the stability of a number of other countries.
The Sahel-Saharan Africa region is one of Africa’s most important hotbeds of terrorism. Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists are active, taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation and benefiting from the ability to move freely between countries such as Mali and Niger. Tens of thousands of local people have been forced to flee armed attacks, as well as inter-communal conflicts often fueled by extremist group violence.
ISIS has reinforced its brutality in the Sahel-Saharan region since April 2019, when former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced his blessing of its members in that region and the establishment of West and Central Africa State. Since then, armed elements have intensified their presence by launching terrorist operations against civilians and military personnel in that area.
Meanwhile, African affairs researcher Nasser Mamoun Issa told the Reference that the warnings came after terrorism intensified and increased its brutality in recent attacks, adding that armed groups worked to destabilize and spread chaos and bloodshed in the Sahel-Saharan region.
International coalition forces are in the Sahel-Saharan region to eliminate those armed groups that have moved the conflict from Syria and Iraq to the West African region, Issa stressed, pointing out that ISIS will increase its conflicts and open new fronts in Africa in response to the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He said that the African Economic Community is seeking to move forward in the development process because it believes that development is the best solution available to counter terrorism in the Sahel, which is characterized by the lengthy desert, which represents freedom of movement for armed elements, whether from al-Qaeda or ISIS.