Investing in young people to fight upstream against terrorism

Today, it is clear that militant Islamist violence in the Sahel is accelerating faster than in any other region of Africa. After nearly a decade of conflict, violent events in the Sahel (specifically in Burkina Faso, Mali and western Niger) are on the rise, and with no signs of abating, with a 140% increase since 2020, says Dr. Michael Shurkin, director of global programs at 14 North Strategies and founder of Shurbros Global Strategy.

In his report, he notes that the violence of militant Islamist groups against civilians in the Sahel represents 60% of all such violence in Africa and is estimated to have increased by more than 40% in 2022. This uninterrupted escalation of violence has led to the displacement of more than 2.5 million people and would have killed more than 8,000 people in 2022. Estimates that are far from reality, for lack of reliable statistics.

However, from year to year, the expenditures go crescendo to counter terrorism. In 2022, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the EU granted Burkina Faso humanitarian aid of 52.4 million euros (about 53.9 million US dollars). Since 2018, the EU has allocated aid of €265 million (approximately US$272 million) to support the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force composed of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which includes support for logistics, equipment and infrastructure, as well as support for the promotion of human rights.

Reappearance of Iyad Ag Ghali

But nothing helps, terrorism is gaining ground to the great dismay of the population. It is in this context that three successive major events took place in the Sahel and which give food for thought on what the Sahel will be like, plagued by terrorism, jihadism and other radical movements, in the years to come, if nothing is not done now. Indeed, the withdrawal of the Barkhane force, followed by the reappearance of Iyad Ag Ghali in the border area of ​​Niger, several hundred kilometers from his supposed caches in the extreme north-east of Mali, close to the Algerian border , increasingly worried. Added to this is the departure, in a month, of the French Force “Sabre” from Burkina Faso.

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Because this reappearance of Iyad Ag Ghali raises fears of a possible rapprochement between the CMA (Coordination of the movements of Azawad) and the Islamic State of the greater Sahel of the latter. This leads Dr. Bakary Sambe, director of the Timbuktu Institute, to say that there has never been any separation between terrorist groups and certain political organizations, particularly in the north, if we look at the different interests in economic terms, such as the control of the vast passage areas which, at the same time, benefits the signatory movements and the terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks and kidnappings are increasing in these two countries, but also in other Sahelo-Sahelian areas. To get an idea of ​​the scale, the Global Terrorism Index 2021 report points out, in this regard, that the region has become an epicenter of terrorism, the frequency of attacks and deaths linked to terrorism have increased exponentially from a thousand to hundred between 2007 and 2021.

In addition to these security issues, the Sahel faces many socio-political challenges that make local populations more vulnerable to extremist groups. The scarcity of resources, the resurgence of inter- and intra-community tensions and the mediocrity of government infrastructure have seriously shaken the social fabric of society and weakened people’s trust in their political representatives, says essayist Seidik Abba.

Future perspective

Hence the interest of the reflection of Adama Guene, a graduate in Political Science and International Relations, affiliated with the Social Change Factory leadership center based in Dakar, when he says that “we must invest in young people to fight upstream against terrorism”. According to him, community organizations such as ECOWAS and UEMOA should take charge of youth issues and provide solutions by conducting common youth policies. Privileged target of jihadist groups, who surf on poverty, the lack of future prospects, the lack of education, young people are a vulnerable layer.

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In this respect, explains our interlocutor, the States must develop in a well-thought-out way, clear strategies in favor of the education and employment of young people, guarantee of stability. They must also allow young people to take part in decision-making processes in terms of peace and security policies in order to take into account the points of view of this layer, the most important of the African population which, paradoxically, is the least listened to. It is with good reason, moreover, that he underlines, with force, “Tell me how young you are, I will tell you what country you will have”.

Certainly in Burkina, the government wants to rectify the situation by setting up village militias VDP (Volunteers for the defense of the homeland) whose number is around 100,000 people today. The operation will ultimately result in the recruitment of young people in the civil service or in the facilitation of job creation through the granting of credit. The refoundation of the State being considered as the obligatory passage.

Its neighbour, Mali, intends to count on the FAMA (Malian Armed Forces) but also on its partner, Russia, to fight effectively against Islamists of all persuasions. Still, victory over the terrorists will only happen if young people are no longer idle, left to their own devices, and therefore no longer at the mercy of sellers of dreams and illusions.


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