Photo: STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Issue No: 22/2020

COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor – 16 September 2020

Special Edition on the Sahel

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ACCORD COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor
References: AfricaCDC, ACLED and African Arguments

This week’s edition focuses on the Sahel, especially Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Former president Pierre Buyoya, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Mali and the Sahel, writes about how COVID-19 has become a threat multiplier in a region that is already under strain. 

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, argues that whilst the trajectory of the pandemic is still evolving, it has already had a major impact on the political, security, economic and humanitarian dynamics in Sahel countries.

Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Executive Secretary of the G5 Sahel Secretariat, calls for strengthening the resilience of the Sahel region by investing and amplifying what he terms ‘Sahelian agency’ to conceive and implement interventions that combine local governance, cross-border value chains and human development.

Laouali Mahamane is the focal point for the Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa (ARGA) in Niger, and he points out that Niger, by virtue of its geographical position, is the country most affected by insecurity in the region, due to persistent attacks by non-state armed groups in its western region bordering Burkina Faso and Mali, and in its eastern region (the Lake Chad Basin), where Boko Haram is active.

Morten Bøås and Natasja Rupesinghe from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) find that none of the Sahel countries are severely directly affected by COVID-19 at this stage, but while the effects may mainly be indirect and accumulating, the consequences are an additional burden on political and social systems that are already close to the brink.

Managing Editor: COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor
Chief Editor: COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor​
Photo: ANNIE RISEMBERG/AFP via Getty Images
Photo: ANNIE RISEMBERG/AFP via Getty Images

The general situation in the Sahel-Saharan region continues to be of concern to the African Union (AU) and the international community. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is adding an additional element to the multidimensional crisis that the Sahel has already been experiencing for a decade. This is resulting in a negative impact, to say the least, on the actions that were underway in the fight against insecurity and for the promotion of sustainable development.

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Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam, UNAMID
Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam, UNAMID
Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Features

COVID-19 and the Sahel

  • Mohamed Ibn Chambas

When the first COVID-19 cases reached the African continent, early estimates painted a dim picture of the impact of the pandemic on the region. Editorialists, public figures and think tanks predicted a widespread outbreak in the face of governments and health systems lacking the capacities to counter it. On 9 March 2020, the first two cases of COVID-19 were announced in Burkina Faso, followed by Niger on 19 March and Mali on 25 March. The outlook for the Sahel was particularly pessimistic. Some predicted that in addition to the human toll, the pandemic would spark the collapse of the Sahelian states.

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Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images
Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

The Sahel region – in particular, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – has been an epicentre of insurgence and instability in recent years. The prevalence of intercommunal violence, climate change and food insecurity, among other factors, contribute to the region’s instability. These have been further fuelled by additional extenuating factors that include limitations in economic development, poor development in health and human welfare, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

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ACCORD COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor
References: Worldometers, National Geographic, UNHCR and Trading Economics
Laouali Mahamane
Political Unrest or Violence

Conflict, resilience and COVID-19 in Niger

  • Laouali Mahamane

For several years, the Sahel has been facing insecurity. Niger, by virtue of its geographical position, is the Sahel country most affected by this insecurity, due to persistent attacks by non-state armed groups in its western region bordering Burkina Faso and Mali, and in its eastern region (the Lake Chad Basin), where Boko Haram is active. In addition to this, there is now the added threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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ACCORD COVID-19 Conflict & Resilience Monitor
References: ACLED Data
Natasja Rupesinghe
Morten Boas
Political Unrest or Violence

COVID-19 in the Sahel – implications for an already deteriorating security situation

  • Natasja Rupesinghe
  • Morten Bøås

The COVID-19 pandemic is directly and indirectly affecting governments’ ability to secure their populations. This is also the case of the core Sahel countries that in this brief is defined as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Officially none of them are severely affected by the pandemic. However, this does not mean that COVID-19 effects could not materialise. The effects of COVID-19 will come, and while the effects may mainly be indirect, the consequences could be an additional burden on political and social systems that already are close to the brink.

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