Francesco Bellina/TNH

Briefing: The civilian fallout from the Sahel’s spreading militancy

‘It’s no longer just the Sahel, it’s coastal West Africa’

A surge in violence across West Africa’s Sahel has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left thousands dead since January, as Islamist militants with links to al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State extend their reach across the region at a time when they are losing ground in their Middle Eastern strongholds.

Five takeaways on the growing violence and its civilian toll

Philip Kleinfeld

Why is violence rising?

The violence has its roots in the activities of a number of local but globally oriented jihadist groups that have spent the past few years laying the groundwork for armed insurgencies and are now wreaking havoc across the Sahel — a semi-arid belt of land on the southern edge of the Sahara.

What is causing ethnic conflict?

Jihadist groups have recruited heavily from Fulani pastoralists, an ethnic group that suffers from social exclusion as well as government and development programmes that favour agriculturalists.

What are the humanitarian needs?

Internal displacement has increased five-fold in the past year according to the UN, with 330,000 people uprooted and a further 100,000 people fleeing across borders.

The crisis in numbers

How much worse could it get?

Conflicts are likely to escalate further through the year as militants expand their reach, ethnic militias proliferate, and communal divisions harden.

How is the international community responding?

Efforts to stem the violence aren’t working. The UN has around 13,000 peacekeepers deployed in Mali, but attacks by jihadists mean the mission is now “more a target than an anchor of stability”, according to a recent assessment from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Which jihadist groups are involved?

Jihadists, Militaries, and Militants: Who’s Where

The world's leading provider of humanitarian news and analysis

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store