The War on Terror in West Africa
Africa’s War on Terror started centuries ago when colonial powers labeled independence rebellions as terrorist organizations. These same colonial powers are still in the region to try and help the now sovereign countries fight against the threat of extremist organizations. Africa’s terrorist cell first caught the attention of the United States in 1998 when three car bombs went off almost simultaneously in front of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam. Al-Queda took responsibility for the explosions, the same group that would spark the United States’ official War on Terror after the 9/11 attacks.
Since 2001 western nations have had a military presence in the Sahel to help fight against extremist organizations. The United States has spent 100s of millions of dollars on military aid and training in the region. A coalition of U.S., E.U., and U.K. forces created Operation Flintlock in 2005. Flintlock is a military training exercise for West African militaries fighting against terrorist organizations. They are trained on how to secure houses, villages, and other military tactics. Unfortunately, Operation Flintlock has not provided the sweeping success many were hoping for.
Almost a decade later, the region is ripe for terrorist cells to grow. Instability and disorganization within governments have fueled terrorist recruitment. Over 2 million people have been displaced, with over 10,000 casualties from fighting. A growing sense of anger has washed over much of the population, and since 2008 there have been 11 attempted or successful coups in West Africa. Most recently, the military coup of Burkina Faso. It gave hope to many in the population that the senseless attacks would end.
Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba is now the military leader in Burkina Faso, who himself was armed and trained by the United States. The United States has now stopped supporting Burkina Faso and other nations taken over in a coup. The U.S. has a law banning all military aid to countries where the military was partially or in full control of a coup d’état. The United States military is saying that if Burkina Faso went back to democracy, they would be able to continue their support. There continues to be further alienation of western countries in the region as well.
In March 2022, the Malian government asked France to withdraw all its’ troops ‘without delay.’ France has major colonial roots in West Africa and has political and military ties to the countries known as the G5 Sahel; Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. The French were executing a wide-ranging mission across these regions called Operation Barkhane. France started this operation on the back of the successful military operation called Operation Serval. Serval had a clear limited aim at expelling extremist groups from strong points within the region. However, while the U.S., E.U., and the U.K. have been in West Africa, there have been no signs of improvement among local fighters.
This stagnation of fighters, a policy from western countries that isn't working, and instability have caused a rift between some West African countries and the west. Most notably France and Mali. President Macron has redeployed the 5,100 troops in Mali to neighboring Niger. Anti-French sentiment, bad political choices, and alleged propaganda has pushed countries like France out of Mali. The United States and E.U. still have some troops deployed in the region, but West African countries are looking elsewhere for aid.
Vice News and the Washington Post have reported that the Wagner Group, Russian-back mercenaries, have been coming to the region. While Burkina Faso has not acted on the idea, Mali has seen an increase in mercenaries coming to the country over the last three months. The United States considers the Wagner group as an extension of the Kremlin. As Russia is continuously isolated from the world stage, it is looking for new regions to impose its influence, and in Mali, it is working. The Washington Post reports that waves of people are flying Russian flags and holding signs thanking the Wagner group for coming to their country.
What has become increasingly clear is that the innocent people of West Africa have become tired of the ongoing violence. They are now looking to anyone with a new way of thinking that may help solve the issue of the destabilizing and horrific acts of terror that continue in the Sahel region. For now, the situation in the Sahel remains dire as terrorists attack important infrastructure, isolating and then raiding villages.
While the military is doing what it can to root out the violence in the Sahel, FarmSahel is determined to support the most vulnerable families in Burkina Faso. Arid soil, destabilization, climate change, and disease are everyday problems families face. FarmSahel will continue its focus on regenerative permaculture. Our team understands the importance of having soil that won’t just last one harvest but for generations. As we focus on organic compost and plant management, it will be one less problem that families have to worry about.