N°21 > For a peaceful and prosperous Sahel

- Nicolas Normand, Ministre honoraire plénipotentiaire, ancien ambassadeur (Mali, Congo et Sénégal), ancien directeur adjoint de l'IHEDN


The Sahel experienced a golden age, from the 7th to the 16th century, with ultimate relics until the 19th century. Before the advent of international maritime trade, the region was at the heart of trade with North Africa and Europe. It was organized in the form of politically and economically structured states, with literate elites who notably left an important written heritage in the Timbuktu libraries.

Then the economy of the whole region has continued to deteriorate and vast areas have finally been under-administered by the Sahel states resulting from decolonization. These "brownfields", or marginalized areas, have allowed the installation of various traffickers, hostage takers and armed groups. The northern Mali has finally undergone four rebellions of some Tuareg groups since 1962 and others have also occurred in Niger.

Since the 2000s, North Mali has also been the victim of the establishment of Algerian jihadists, veterans of Afghanistan, having rejected all offers of reintegration and finally pushed back from Algeria (the Salafist Group for preaching and combat, became Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb-AQIM-in 2007). A purely local jihadism (Ansar Dine and MUJAO), allied with AQIM, also took root to the point of defeating the Malian army and dominating more than half of Mali in 2012. At about the same time, armed jihadism has also developed in Somalia where the state was deliquescent or "bankrupt" (the Chebabs since 2006), as well as the neglected North of Nigeria (Boko Haram from 2009). Insecurity is spreading to new regions of the Sahel: central Mali, Niger and northern Burkina, with new armed groups, mainly jihadists. In Mali alone, "sick man" of the Sahel, there exists today, even outside the jihadist nebula, no less than 17 politico-military groups, a regular army (Malian army) and 3 foreign armies (MINUSMA, Barkhane, G5 Sahel).

Can the Sahel nevertheless find peace, or even its former glory? Can he overcome his traumas and embark on the path of sustainable development? No doubt after Nicolas NORMAND, Honorary Plenipotentiary Minister, former Ambassador of France (Mali, Congo and Senegal), former Deputy Director of the IHEDN, but only if reforms and ambitious projects can be undertaken, also supported more effectively by the international community.

• A fragility that comes from state institutions
• Enhance the assets of the Sahel
• Change the paradigm of development aid and become more concerned about the Sahel

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