ICCT Regional Lens on Africa: Ten Years of Crisis in the Sahel Region

Entering its tenth year now, the Sahel crisis has seen violent extremism wreak havoc onto its civilian populations. The Islamic State’s presence in the region has triggered mass displacements, political tensions, and global counter-terrorism strategies which researchers continue to study in the regions of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Learn more about the relation between mass displacement and violent extremism, and interactions between terrorist organisations and customary authorities in these key publications by ICCT on the topic. 

1️⃣With the Sahel crisis entering its tenth year, around 2.8 million people have faced forced displacement into Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. However, the cause of displacement and its consequences is an area of research quite sparse even today. In this Policy Brief, Meryl Demuynck explores how mass displacement can perpetuate violence by growing local grievances that extremist groups tend to exploit.  

2️⃣After a decade of security efforts, and to a lesser extent institution-building and economic investments, recent political and diplomatic issues are now questioning military, specifically counter-terrorism, initiatives in the Sahel. In this Perspective, Silvia D’Amato and Edoardo Baldaro identify six points of political tension in the fight against terrorism across the Sahel that are critically hindering the ongoing counter-terrorism efforts in the region.  

3️⃣In an significant shift, the 85-country Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh is poised to turn its attention to the most important battleground against the Islamic State and its affiliates today: Africa. Here, in light of the complexities of the environment and the critical importance of managing the Islamic State threat in Africa, Tricia Bacon, Austin C. Doctor, and Jason Warner propose ten factors – four strategic principles and six operational guidelines – to guide the Coalition’s mission in Africa in the near and intermediate future. 

4️⃣For over a decade, the Sahel region has been confronted with the presence of al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated organisations, various non-state armed groups, and communal militias and has continued to witness ever-increasing levels of violence. In this Perspective, Méryl Demuynck and Julie Coleman provide a concise overview of the interactions between customary authorities and terrorist organisations in the Sahel. 

5️⃣The January 2022 military coup in Burkina Faso emerged as the culmination of the population’s growing discontent with the state’s capacity to find adequate responses to counter-terrorism. In this Perspective, Méryl Demuynck and Julie Coleman analyse what this new military takeover, the latest in a series of political upheavals throughout the region, reveals about the strategy adopted by Burkinabe authorities so far, as well as the potential impact of the coup on the evolution of the violent extremist threat across the region looking forward. 

6️⃣What are the perspectives for the decline of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) in the Sahel? This Research Paper by Sergei Boeke focuses on counter-terrorism efforts against AQIM and JNIM, describing the conceptual distinction between insurgency and terrorism, and structuring insights along six pathways of decline.