When asked about the withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS, Timbuktu Institute Regional Director Dr Bakary Sambe pointed out that the warning signs had been there since these countries created the Alliance of Sahel States (Sahel). In his view, if these states persevere in this dynamic, there is cause for concern, even if, with diplomacy, it is always possible to bring back its founding members.

Yesterday, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). "The warning signs were there, as we analyzed in a recent Timbuktu Institute Observatory Newsletter, as early as September 2023, seeing in the establishment of the Alliance of Sahel States a progressive threat to the regional collective security mechanism," responded Dr. Bakary Sambe, Director of the Timbuktu Institute. For him, the countries in question shared a concern not only to protect themselves against ECOWAS, but also to no longer be bound by the legal frameworks governing it.

"The strengthening of ties between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while grafting other agreements onto security cooperation, was a clear sign that an exit was in the offing, despite all the efforts of the region's Heads of State to keep them in the Community fold", explains the specialist in regional and Sahel issues. Many links the exit of these countries to ECOWAS's management of coups d'etat. On this point, Bakary Sambe believes that it is true that ECOWAS tried to manage institutional crises as a matter of urgency, by activating the classic lever of sanctions, whereas the international geopolitical context offered the countries concerned not only loopholes, but also choices, notably with the Russian offer, which completely changed the deal.

ECOWAS, the putschists' repellent?

"Similarly, the sub-regional organization had long suffered from the disastrous management of security problems, from which it had been deprived in favor of the G5 Sahel, which was preferred by its partners. ECOWAS had become a repellent for regimes that had recently come to power, and that surfed on the populist fibre to maintain themselves there", recalls Dr. Sambe.

As for the outlook, the specialist believes that we're heading for an uncertain future. "If the states in question lock themselves into this alliance, we'll have to anticipate a number of situations, some as worrying as others", he maintains. He is thinking, among other things, of the fragmentation of regional efforts to combat terrorism. The decision could also have a negative impact on the efforts of the African Union, weakening the organization's role by complicating its attempts to coordinate security efforts on a continental scale. The three countries also accused ECOWAS of being instrumentalized by the great powers. Mr. Sambe disagrees. "If this were true, there would be no need for some to support other organizations to the detriment of ECOWAS, or to duplicate frameworks and mechanisms. ECOWAS certainly has its faults and shortcomings, but it is a framework for sometimes heated debate and a regulatory mechanism that should be consolidated and improved, not destroyed. This is not the concern of our international partners, who would not emerge unscathed from any chaos," says Bakary Sambe, who acknowledges that the sub-region is bearing the full brunt of the shocks of international geopolitics.

However, he is hopeful that these countries may come around, as there is a procedure for definitive withdrawal. "Withdrawal is only announced by a communiqué, which has no legal value. We need to take steps by state, and there's a whole process that will take time. A definitive withdrawal by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, founding and symbolic members of ECOWAS, will not be in anyone's interest," he says. He continues: "It's time to activate all the levers to avoid such a situation. The immediate effect is merely an announcement. Diplomacy must continue its work in the little space it has left", he hopes.

O.KANDE - Source : Le Soleil



Source : Météo Sahel 

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The closure of the French embassy in Niger marked a turning point in relations between Paris and Niamey. This rare decision was taken at the same time as the withdrawal of French soldiers deployed in the fight against terrorism. Relations had deteriorated since last July's military coup and the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum. At the same time, the Nigerien authorities have stepped up their retaliatory measures, notably expelling European nationals, members of the EUCAP Sahel vision, a 120-strong European mission created in 2012 to reinforce internal security, and suspending the activities of the Maison de la presse, against a backdrop of growing tensions between the military government and civil society.

In addition, the Nigerien government has launched regional consultations with a view to an inclusive national dialogue to define the duration of the transition for the military in power since the coup d'état in July. These consultations have brought together a variety of players to discuss the main issues at stake in the transition: officers from the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland, members of the government, traditional and religious chiefs of former Tuareg rebel fighters, youth organizations, trade unions, NGOs, etc. However, the military regime continues to arrest government leaders Mohamed Bazoum, himself still sequestered in his presidential residence, while his son was granted provisional freedom on January 8. Ibrahim Yacoubou, the former Energy Minister in the President's government, was arrested on his return to Niger.

However, the security situation remains worrying, as evidenced by the drone strikes carried out by the Nigerien army in response to a jihadist attack in the southwest of the country, in the village of Tiawa, not far from the border with Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, these strikes resulted in civilian casualties, prompting criticism and calls for transparent investigations. Finally, Niger sought to diversify its international partnerships, announcing an intensification of its military cooperation with Russia, following Prime Minister Lamine Zeine's visit to Turkey, Serbia and then Iran. This initiative comes at a time when the country is seeking external support (equipment and expertise) in the face of the security and political challenges it faces.

Source : Météo Sahel 

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Burkina Faso was the scene of a number of significant events, underlining the persistent challenges still facing the country. On the one hand, jihadist attacks in the north of the country resulted in the deaths of a dozen soldiers and civilians in at least four separate incidents over the course of a week. These attacks have aroused great concern both nationally and internationally, with a declaration by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deploring the deteriorating security situation and suspending Burkina Faso from its institutions.

Burkina Faso was the scene of a number of significant events, underlining the persistent challenges still facing the country. On the one hand, jihadist attacks in the north of the country claimed the lives of a dozen soldiers and civilians in at least four separate incidents over the course of a week. These attacks have caused great concern both nationally and internationally, with a declaration by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deploring the deteriorating security situation and suspending Burkina Faso from its institutions.

In addition, the accusations made against the Burkinabe army by Human Rights Watch, concerning the death of at least 60 civilians in drone strikes, portrayed by government authorities as being directed against jihadist fighters, have added a further dimension to the crisis. These accusations have raised many questions about the use of military resources, notably the Bayraktar drones, manufactured in Turkey, and about the protection of civilians in the context of the fight against terrorism.

Overall, these events highlight the multiple challenges facing Burkina Faso, particularly in terms of security, respect for human rights and political governance. They also underline the importance of international vigilance and regional cooperation in tackling these complex challenges.

Burkina Faso continues to face multiple challenges as it becomes a new arena for the "great game" between powers and divergent interests. On the domestic political and security front, many questions remain.

Source : Météo Sahel 

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The month of January in Senegal was marked by growing election fever in the runup to the February 2024 presidential election. Among the candidates in the running, two prominent figures attracted particular attention : Karim Wade, who has emerged from his eight-year retreat and silence, and Ousmane Sonko, a charismatic young opposition leader. However, controversy has erupted over the validity of their respective candidacies. The Supreme Court upheld Ousmane Sonko's conviction for defamation, calling into question his participation in the election. At the same time, heated debates took place in the political and media spheres concerning Karim Wade's French nationality, raising questions about the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) candidate's ability to stand. In early February, on the eve of the official electoral campaign, the Senegalese president announced the repeal of the decree convening the electoral body, thereby postponing the presidential elections originally scheduled for February 25, 2024.

This was the start of violent demonstrations and protests, which even led to loss of life, notably on the campus of Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis in the north of the country. Calls for dialogue were made by President Sall, as well as by certain civil society actors, while political pressure was maintained by the continuing demonstrations.

On February 12, a communiqué jointly signed by the two previous presidents, Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade, called on "the living forces" to subscribe to dialogue in order to calm the political climate. A few days earlier, the Timbuktu Institute had called for solutions to be found through "constructive, inclusive and sincere" dialogue. For the Institute's Director, Dr. Bakary Sambe: "In order to protect Senegal from instability, we must urgently take a proactive approach, despite all considerations, and aim first and foremost for a consensual political framework as a prerequisite for the preservation of democracy, peace and stability. We must not run the risk of electoral violence which, combined with the jihadist threat on our doorstep, would plunge Senegal into instability. The region does not need another crisis.

According to the Timbuktu Institute, "we should perhaps not despair of the intelligence of the political class in all its diversity, so that at all costs we can avoid a stalemate that would be damaging not only to Senegal's stability, but also to regional peace and security".

Despite the demonstration scheduled for February 13 in Dakar and other regions, consultations are already underway in religious circles and certain civil society organizations to support the idea of this dialogue, whose contours are still unclear and whose future is uncertain despite the political compromises in sight, and which has been widely covered by the national press.

However, the European Union had already announced the deployment of an electoral observation mission to Senegal to monitor the electoral process and guarantee its transparency, led by Malin Björk MEP. Similarly, Senegal's Constitutional Council had already officially completed the stage of checking sponsorships and then validated the candidacies of 20 candidates, excluding Sonko and Wade. The list includes Prime Minister Amadou Ba, the presidential camp's candidate, Idrissa Seck, Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, Sonko's nominee. However, the latter has been detained since April 2023 for "contempt of court" and "defamation". The decision prompted mixed reactions, with some hailing it as a necessary step to ensure the integrity of the electoral process, while others criticized it as politically motivated. Karim Wade decided to take his case to the international courts.

Following protests from a number of candidates, including Karim Wade, Parliament voted to set up a committee of inquiry to examine the decisions of the Constitutional Council concerning presidential candidacies. The committee's aim is to shed light on any irregularities or acts of corruption by certain judges in the candidacy validation process, and to propose reforms to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process in the future. What happens next will be much clearer after the long-awaited opinion of the Constitutional Council and the start of the announced dialogue, which is giving rise to a stormy debate among Senegal's political class and intellectuals, who seem to be clinging to great principles in defense of the institutions.

On the international scene, Senegal, represented by Justice Minister Aïssata Tall Sall, was at the center of discussions at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The country defended its positions on various issues, including LGBT’s rights, affirming its commitment to human rights while highlighting the country's cultural and religious specificities. Senegal also announced the dissolution of its last MINUSMA detachment in Mali, marking the end of its military commitment to this peacekeeping mission. Finally, Senegalese President Macky Sall visited Mauritania to discuss joint projects, notably the imminent start-up of the West African offshore gas extraction project, known as GTA. The meeting also addressed topics such as the fisheries agreement between the two countries and regional security issues.


Source : Météo Sahel 

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Au Niger, la fermeture de l’ambassade de France au Niger a marqué un tournant dans les relations entre Paris et Niamey. Cette décision rare a été prise en parallèle au retrait des soldats français déployés dans le cadre de la lutte antiterroriste. Les relations se sont détériorées depuis le coup d’État militaire en juillet dernier et le renversement du président Mohamed Bazoum. Parallèlement, les autorités nigériennes ont intensifié leurs mesures de rétorsion, expulsant notamment des ressortissants européens, membres de la vision EUCAP Sahel, mission européenne de 120 personnes, créée en 2012 pour renforcer la sécurité intérieure, et suspendant les activités de la Maison de la presse, dans un contexte de tensions croissantes entre le gouvernement militaire et la société civile.

Par ailleurs, le gouvernement nigérien a lancé des concertations régionales en vue d’un dialogue national inclusif pour définir la durée de la transition pour les militaires au pouvoir depuis le coup d’État de juillet. Ces concertations ont réuni divers acteurs pour discuter des principaux enjeux de la transition : des officiers du Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie, des membres du gouvernement, des chefs traditionnels et religieux des ex-combattants des rebellions touareg, des organisations de jeunesse, des syndicats, des ONG... Pour autant, le régime militaire continue d’arrêter les responsables du gouvernement Mohamed Bazoum, lui-même encore séquestré dans sa résidence présidentielle alors que son fils a bénéficié d’une liberté provisoire le 8 janvier. Ibrahim Yacoubou, l’ancien ministre nigérien de l’Energie dans le gouvernement du président a été arrêté dès son retour au Niger.

Cependant, la situation sécuritaire reste préoccupante, comme en témoignent les frappes de drones menées par l’armée nigérienne en réponse à une attaque djihadiste dans le sud-ouest du pays, dans le village de Tiawa, non loin de la frontière avec le Burkina Faso. Ces frappes ont malheureusement entraîné des pertes civiles, suscitant des critiques et des appels à des enquêtes transparentes. Enfin, le Niger a cherché à diversifier ses partenariats internationaux, en annonçant une intensification de sa coopération militaire avec la Russie, après la visite du Premier ministre Lamine Zeine en Turquie, Serbie puis en Iran. Cette initiative intervient dans un contexte de recherche de soutien extérieur (matériel et expertise) face aux défis sécuritaires et politiques auxquels le pays est confronté.

Source : Météo Sahel 

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Le Burkina Faso a été le théâtre de multiples événements marquants, soulignant les défis persistants auxquels le pays reste confronté. D’une part, les attaques djihadistes dans le nord du pays ont entraîné la mort d’une dizaine de soldats et de civils lors d’au moins quatre incidents distincts au cours d’une semaine. Ces attaques ont suscité une forte préoccupation tant au niveau national qu’international, avec une déclaration de la Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO) déplorant la détérioration de la situation sécuritaire et suspendant le Burkina Faso de ses institutions.

Parallèlement, les autorités burkinabè ont été critiquées pour leurs pratiques présumées, notamment les réquisitions forcées et les arrestations jugées « arbitraires » de personnalités politiques et de la société civile. L’arrestation de l’ancien ministre Ablassé Ouédraogo a été suivie de celle de l’avocat Guy-Hervé Kam, toutes deux entourées de questions sur la légalité et les motivations derrière ces actions. La Cédéao a exprimé ses préoccupations et a appelé à la « libération immédiate des personnes interpellée ».

De plus, les accusations portées contre l’armée burkinabè par Human Rights Watch, concernant la mort d’au moins 60 civils lors de frappes de drones, dépeintes par les autorités gouvernementales comme étant dirigées contre des combattants jihadistes, ont ajouté une dimension supplémentaire à la crise. Ces accusations ont soulevé de nombreuses interrogations sur l’utilisation des ressources militaires, notamment les drones Bayraktar, fabriqués en Turquie, et sur la protection des civils dans le contexte de la lutte contre le terrorisme. 

Dans l’ensemble, ces événements mettent en lumière les multiples enjeux auxquels est confronté le Burkina Faso, notamment en matière de sécurité, de respect des droits de l’homme et de gouvernance politique. Ils soulignent également l’importance de la vigilance internationale et de la coopération régionale pour faire face à ces défis complexes. Le Burkina Faso reste confronté à de multiples défis pendant que ce pays devient un nouveau terrain du « grand jeu » entre puissances et intérêts divergents. Alors que sur le plan politico-sécuritaire interne persistent de nombreuses interrogations.