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Abstract: This month’s Conflict Trends report is the eighth in a series of monthly publications from the Armed Con-flict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED). Each month, realtime data on conflict events is gathered, pub-lished and analysed, and compared with historical patterns in violence levels, locations and agents to provide an insight into conflict change and continu-ity on the continent.
Abstract: More than 18 million people are currently struggling through a crisis in the
Sahel region of West Africa. The overarching driver of this crisis is not drought,
nor a food deficit. The most vulnerable families are in crisis because they have
no protection against shocks like grain prices doubling. This is the “resilience
deficit”*, rooted in structural causes, neglected for too long, and exacerbated
by exceptionally high food prices.
Current estimates suggest that over one million children will face severe
and life-threatening malnutrition during this crisis. Even in a “non-crisis”
year, an estimated 645,000 children die in the Sahel of largely preventable
and treatable causes, with 226,000 of these deaths being directly linked to
malnutrition. Acute malnutrition affects 10%-14% of children in Senegal, Mali,
Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, and more than 15% of children in Chad.
These rates demonstrate that traditional development policies are failing to
save children in the Sahel from a permanent, large-scale nutrition crisis.
This report, a joint initiative by Save the Children and World Vision, aims to
assess progress, lessons learned, and challenges in promoting “resilience” in
the Sahel, with a particular focus on the well-being of children. The study
demonstrates the need for a massive response by governments and partners
in order to tackle child malnutrition – chronic and acute, together. It offers
evidence-based, tangible recommendations for a comprehensive, child-focused
approach to resilience in the Sahel.
People’s access to food at prices they can afford, and their capacity to absorb
or adapt to new shocks have been severely undermined by the Sahel crises in
2005, 2008 and 2010. The vast majority of the most vulnerable households in
the region have had neither the time, nor the necessary support, to get out of
debt, or restore their normal means of making a living.
Abstract: Human Security Research is a monthly compilation of significant new human security-related research published by academics, university research institutes, think-tanks, international agencies, and NGOs.
Articles in this issue:
AID & FRAGILE STATES: Aid Effectiveness in Fragile States: Lessons from the First Generation of Transition Compacts
MONITORING AND REPORTING: Building Effective Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-finding Mechanisms
CHILDREN & ARMED CONFLICT: No One to Trust: Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia
INSECURITY IN MAURITANIA: The Drivers of Insecurity in Mauritania
TRAFFICKING & INSTABILITY: Drug Trafficking, Violence, and Instability
THE UN IN CHAD & CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC : Security Council Working Methods and UN Peace Operations: The Case of Chad and the Central African Republic, 2006-2010
SSR IN THE DRC: The Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform
LEADERSHIP TARGETING IN COUNTERINSURGENCY CAMPAIGNS: Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns
HEALTH & EDUCATION IN BURUNDI: War, Health, and Educational Attainment: A Panel of Children during Burundi’s Civil War
WAR & POVERTY: War and Poverty
UN REFORM: UN Peacekeeping: 20 Years of Reform
MYANMAR: Reform in Myanmar: One Year On
Abstract: The trans-Saharan region is emerging as a hotbed of instability and insecurity. A confluence of forces, from the revolts in North Africa and the proliferation of weapons to transnational trafficking of illicit goods and terrorist activity led by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are generating acute interest in this part of the world.
Born dirt poor and with a weak sense of common identity, states in this region have confronted daunting developmental challenges. Governments are chronically weak with feeble political institutions, ethno-political tensions run high, essential services and public goods are lacking, and corruption is endemic. Battling internal turmoil, these states exhibit a limited capacity to monitor their borders and maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, with organized crime stepping in to fill the void.
Mauritania epitomizes the risks that these unstable states with weak capabilities pose to regional and international security. Three stresses emerge as critical to Mauritania’s current state of insecurity: the weakness and corruption of state institutions; sociopolitical tensions rooted in old tribal structures and historical ethno-racial divisions; and the growing radicalization of Mauritanian youth. The problem of homegrown radicalization is further compounded by its interconnectedness with transnational forces like illicit trafficking and regional terrorist networks. These factors reinforce each other, creating a vicious circle that must be broken in order to restore some stability.
For Mauritania to break the cycle, the government needs to bolster its anticorruption initiatives, professionalize its security apparatus, promote social justice, and improve the plight of those at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. Citizens’ level of political inclusion and cultural rights needs to be enhanced, and the 2007 legalization of the moderate Islamist party, Tawassoul, is one step toward promoting engagement and broadening the system of participation. And with a lack of access to quality education disproportionately affecting citizens that are already poor and marginalized, further exacerbating their feelings of anger at the system that could lead to radicalization, reforms in this sector are urgently needed. International actors should support the government’s education reform efforts
Abstract: Security threats in Africa’s Sahel region, spanning the northern tier of the African continent, have existed for decades. However, in recent years security analysts have focused their attention on the increasingly sophisticated attacks by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the now al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab based in Somalia and the insurgent group Boko Haram based in northern Nigeria. Increased fighting in this “arc of instability” as well as changing tactics among insurgent and terrorist groups might reveal a growing relationship1 between these groups and as a result pose a greater risk for instability not only in the region but for the international community. The following report will provide a brief review of AQIM, Boko Haram and al Shabaab in the Sahel region based upon open source reports and will also highlight potential linkages.
Abstract: The menace of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Islamique (AQIM) gained particular international attention as a result of the abduction of western foreigners. During the last years AQIM has not only perpetrated attacks in various countries of the region but also diversified its methods and tactics. Mauritania, in particular, has been victim of all types of AQIM attacks: kidnappings, suicide bombings, attacks to Embassies and military bases, and so forth. However, despite the efforts made by AQIM to secure a high profile and affiliation in Mauritania, the organization has not been able to establish permanent cells in the country nor has it been capable of building a strong foundation that would promote an increasing presence. This paper argues that the connection of AQIM and its messages with criminal networks and local tribes is structurally fragile. In fact, the political agenda pursued by AQIM in Mauritania does not match with that of its temporary allies. The actions perpetrated by AQIM on Mauritanian soil had an enormous negative impact on the economy and on the popular perceptions.
Not only radical Islam was thwarted to certain extent by the strong tribalism and the powerful brotherhoods that permeate social and religious structures, but also the links of the organization with trafficking and smuggling is a source of concern by many, who question the consistency of these illegal activities with Islam. Yet, the capacity of AQIM to make strategic regional alliances and benefit from scenarios like the conflict in Libya should not be underestimated.
Abstract: Hosted by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Studies (CEDHD) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the conference focused on developing national security poliices in North-West Africa, under the title "Integrating Human Security into National Security Policies in North-West Africa". The event took place in Raba 23-24 November 2010 and brought together high-ranking representatives from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal as well as a number of international experts. The conference was supported by the Swiss federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The conference discussed national and transnational security challenges in North-West Africa and analyzed various national responses in terms of their impact on human security in the region. A central theme of the conference was the effort to take stock of national experiences in dealing with various security threats and understanding how national security policy could help reduce the fear and want citizens face. Participants also explored how approaches to national security policy would need to change in order to better respond to the needs of people in the region: Can countries in the region work together to learn from each other's experiences? Can they design and implement national security policies in a way that benefit all people in the region? What regional mechanisms could be developed to assist national security policy-makers in North-West Africa?
Abstract: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, a growing number of analysts and policymakers drew a link between the dramatic rise of terrorism in the Middle East and the region’s lack of democracy. The question of whether levels of political rights and freedoms affect the resort to violence continues to be a source of major political debate.
While some scholars insist that democracies are less likely to produce terrorist activity, due to their ability to channel grievance peacefully, others contend that regimes transitioning to democracy are highly vulnerable to destabilization. Periods of liberalization often raise citizens’ expectations for freedom that regimes are unwilling or unable to meet. The resulting dissonance can fuel violent opposition.
This study examines whether liberalizing regimes in the Maghreb are more or less vulnerable to the threat of political violence and terrorism than their more repressive counterparts. Do political reform processes, however limited and incomplete, boost regime legitimacy and undercut support for radical opposition forces?
Over the last decade, the Maghreb has become a major producer and exporter of violent extremists to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Europe. This paper investigates whether political liberalization efforts in Algeria and Morocco, including the incorporation of mainstream Islamist groups, have contributed to a rise or decline in the level of political violence. Tunisia, one of the Arab world’s most authoritarian states, is also examined to determine whether more exclusionary state policies prevent violence or instead facilitate radicalization. The three cases suggest that the greater the gap between expected change and actual change, the greater the likelihood of political unrest and violence.
This paper argues that the potential negative impacts of liberalization processes on stability stem not from the depth of political and economic reforms but rather from their limited and inconsistent nature. This unevenness is, in some sense, inevitable. It is extremely difficult for political institutions in authoritarian contexts to keep pace with popular demands. As a result, most Arab societies find themselves torn between what they are and what many expect them to become. This gap cannot be easily erased. But it can be managed.
Abstract: While the United Nations has extensive experience in helping to mediate the end to civil wars and implement peace agreements, its experience with non-civil-war transition crises is comparatively limited. This study examines the UN experience in five cases of unconstitutional changes in government between 2008-2011: Kenya, Mauritania, Guinea, Madagascar, and Kyrgyzstan.
The study examines some of the trends across these five cases, drawing lessons learned regarding transitional political arrangements and international mediation. The cases suggest that the use of power-sharing mechanisms to resolve either unconstitutional ousters of elected presidents or electoral disputes raises questions for legitimacy, democracy, and state-society relations. They also suggest that electoral disputes pose more risks for legitimation than unconstitutional ousters of duly-elected governments. Commissions of inquiry offer opportunities to facilitate the restoration of constitutional order without sacrificing justice. They facilitate mediation by “bracketing” the heated controversies over disputed events, removing them from the purview of immediate negotiations.
In each of the cases studied, international mediation played an important role in moving the actors towards compromise, and the UN was vital to these mediation efforts, providing crucial technical and political expertise during constitutional crises. The cases also reveal a remarkable ability of the UN to work collaboratively and effectively with regional and subregional organizations in mediation efforts.
Among the recommendations are the following:
1. Strengthen DPA’s Mediation Support Unit.
2. Expand and support UN regional offices.
3. Senior mediators should have experience with multilateral organizations beyond just the UN.
4. The UN system should systematically prepare for electoral disputes.
5. DPA should enhance communication with resident coordinators and cooperate with UNDP to prepare country teams for political crises.
6. The UN system should develop ways to monitor transitional arrangements.
7. The UN should avoid issuing a blanket condemnation of all departures from constitutional order and address crises on a case-by-case basis.
Abstract: The menace of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Islamique (AQIM) gained particular international
attention as a result of the abduction of western foreigners. During the last years AQIM has
not only perpetrated attacks in various countries of the region but also diversified its methods
and tactics. Mauritania, in particular, has been victim of all types of AQIM attacks:
kidnappings, suicide bombings, attacks to Embassies and military bases, and so forth.
However, despite the efforts made by AQIM to secure a high profile and
affiliation in Mauritania, the organization has not been able to establish
permanent cells in the country nor has it been capable of building a strong
foundation that would promote an increasing presence. This paper argues that the
connection of AQIM and its messages with criminal networks and local tribes is structurally
fragile. In fact, the political agenda pursued by AQIM in Mauritania does not match with that of
its temporary allies. The actions perpetrated by AQIM on Mauritanian soil had an
enormous negative impact on the economy and on the popular perceptions. Not only radical
Islam was thwarted to certain extent by the strong tribalism and the powerful brotherhoods
that permeate social and religious structures, but also the links of the organization with
trafficking and smuggling is a source of concern by many, who question the consistency of
these illegal activities with Islam. Yet, the capacity of AQIM to make strategic regional
alliances and benefit from scenarios like the conflict in Libya should not be underestimated.
Abstract: Despite growing concerns across the Sahel and Maghreb over the increasing potency of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the diffusion of heavily armed mercenaries from Libya, the expanding influence of arms and drugs trafficking, and the widening lethality of Boko Haram, regional security cooperation to address these transnational threats remains fragmented.
Algeria is well-positioned to play a central role in defining this cooperation, but must first reconcile the complex domestic, regional, and international considerations that shape its decision-making.
Abstract: Despite this commitment from the US government to the Sahara-Sahel, there is no consensus among policy makers, observers, regional governments and locals on-the-ground as to the ultimate rationale for these security initiatives. The primary justification for the US militarization of the Sahel is the existence of a small number of self-proclaimed ‘Islamist’ groups operating in the deserts connecting Mauritania, Mali, Burkina, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, Chad and Libya, not to mention groups already active in northern Morocco Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Debate has focused on whether or not these armed groups, individually or taken as a dis-articulated whole, present a potential and significant threat to local and international interests. It is hoped that this collection of essays sheds new light and, eventually, brings fresh eyes to a series of securitizing practices occurring on the ‘margins’ of empire, generally, and US hegemony specifically.
Articles in this issue include:
1. From GSPC to AQIM: The evolution of an Algerian islamist terrorist group into an Al-Qa‘ida Affiliate and its implications for the Sahara-Sahel region | Stephen Harmon
2. War on ‘terror’: Africom, the Kleptocratic State and Under-class Militancy in West Africa-Nigeria | Caroline Ifeka
3. Counterterrorism and democracy promotion in the Sahel under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from September 11, 2001, to the Nigerien Coup of February 2010 | Alex Thurston
4. Western Sahara and the United States’ Geographical Imaginings | Konstantina Isidoros
5. The Western Sahara Conflict: Regional and International Repercussions | Yahia H Zoubir
6. Sahelian blowback: what’s happening in Mali? | Vijay Prashad
7. All quiet on the West Africa front: Terrorism, Tourism and Poverty in Mauritania | Anne E. McDougall
Abstract: Following the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in the autumn of 2011, the EU faced several challenges likely to generate political instability, security and humanitarian issues in the Sahel-Saharan region. These can have substantial impacts on its economic interests in the region but also within its borders. Recognizing the inextricable link between security and development, it provides strategies in various fields in order to support the Sahel States’ national strategies and policies. This Strategy raises several questions: is the Strategy for the Sahel adapted to the challenges faced by the new authorities in the region? Is it a new way to rethink the relationship between the EU and the Sahel or a mere reformulation of former cooperation policies? How can we move beyond words and make this Strategy effective?
Abstract: Speakers included Robert Fowler, Former UN Special Envoy to Niger, Jérôme Spinoza, French Ministry of Defence, and Dr Knox Chitiyo, Royal United Services Institute. The participants shared their insights on the current political and security situation in the Western Sahel, and discussed the transnational challenges facing the region in the form of radical extremism and drug trafficking.
This is a transcript of an event held on 8 December 2011 at Chatham House.
Abstract: This report provides an overview of constitutional reform efforts currently in progress across North Africa.
While electoral and other legal reforms are often part and parcel of constitutional reform, this report focuses
specifically on the constitutional reform process. While relevant, the concurrent electoral and other legal
reforms are outside of the scope of this report, which will highlight how the various players—the electorate,
political parties, interim leaders and others—are reacting to and contributing to constitutional reform. This report
also details the trends and common threads across North Africa, as well as important changes and key outcomes of
the current reform processes.
Across North Africa, political change intensified since the beginning of the year. The Arab Spring, the Jasmine
Revolution, the 20 February Movement, the Day of Rage—these are just some of the labels given to the many
changes that have been occurring throughout North Africa since December 2010. The self-immolation of Tunisian
fruit seller Tariq Mohammed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010 is largely considered the catalyst that triggered
rapid change and upheaval across the region. In Tunisia and Egypt, the leaders fled early in 2011. In Libya, as of
July 2011, the leader remains in power amid NATO intervention and armed opposition. Meanwhile scholars and
practitioners have asked when or if Morocco and Algeria, will face the same challenges of regime change as
Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. One of the only commonalities among the states of North Africa is the promise of
political reform—whether ushered in by transitional governments or the sitting head of state.
The following pages provide detailed explanations for each country in North Africa. The report concludes with a
look at the common themes and concerns across the region.
Abstract: ◆ Security threats in the Sahel are characterized by layers of intertwined and crosscutting interests at the local, national, and regional levels.
◆ International partners’ misunderstanding of these complex dynamics leaves them susceptible to manipulation by illegitimate national actors.
◆ Regional cooperation against transnational illicit trafficking and terrorism is hamstrung by governments that have calculated that their international standing is enhanced by the perpetuation of instability.
Abstract: This Policy Brief examines the real and imagined influence of al-Qa‘ida in North Africa and the Sahel. Despite a perception of the transnationalization of terrorist movements in North Africa under al-Qa‘ida’s banner, robust evidence of an effective al-Qa‘ida’s expansion in the Maghreb and the Sahara/Sahel region remains elusive at best. Rather, doubts about al-Qa‘ida’s actual threat and the efficacy of international response in the context of pervasive state failure in the Sahel raise questions regarding the policy objectives of US-led counter-terrorism in the region.
Abstract: This paper identifies the factors linked to cross-country differentials in growth performance in the aftermath of social conflict for 30 sub-Saharan African countries using panel data techniques. Our results show that changes in the terms of trade are the most important correlate of economic performance in post-conflict environments. This variable is typically associated with an increase in the marginal probability of positive economic performance by about 30 percent. Institutional quality emerges as the second most important factor. Foreign aid is shown to have very limited ability to explain differentials in growth performance, and other policy variables such as trade openness are not found to have a statistically significant effect. The results suggest that exogenous factors ("luck") are an important factor in post-conflict recovery. They also highlight the importance in post-conflict settings of policies to mitigate the macroeconomic impact of terms of trade volatility (including countercyclical macroeconomic policies and innovative financing instruments) and of policies to promote export diversification.
Abstract: I consider it a singular honour to have been invited today by Chatham House
to address this august forum. The Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS), which I represent, is a regional organisation which has,
over the years, gained your attention only for the unfortunate reasons of state
implosion and instability caused by bad governance and marginalisation. I
therefore welcome the opportunity to throw further light on its objectives,
challenges, and achievements, which factors have effectively brought
together fifteen West African states in the enterprise of improving upon the
living standards of 230 million people as well as integrating them.
The term ‘Chatham House Rule’ is today an internationally-accepted cliché
that this Institute has contributed to international diplomacy discourse, a
reference norm in rigorous and policy-oriented exchanges on global peace
and security. I therefore view your invitation to lead today’s discourse about
‘Democracy in the context of Regional Integration in West Africa’ as an
unique honour for me personally, and a recognition of ECOWAS as a leading
brand in regional integration.
Ladies and gentlemen, the evolution of ECOWAS can only be properly
understood against the backdrop of the fascinating history and circumstances
of West Africa since establishing contact with the world beyond its borders.
The fact that slavery, colonialism, as well as racial and economic
marginalisation, had left an intrinsic yearning for freedom, unity and solidarity
among peoples of African descent everywhere defines its wish to integrate its
states and peoples.
Abstract: This special research report provides an analysis of a set of new issues that have been emerging in the West African subregion and possible implications for the Security Council in the coming year(s). It identifies some key emerging threats to peace and security in the 16-state subregion and their linkages to existing security challenges. The report points to a key feature: the fact that some of the new threats are essentially criminal rather than political in nature. However, it explains also the growing political and security implications. The report also highlights action already taken by the Council to recognise these threats and considers options available to the Council to tackle these issues going forward.
The raw material for the study was derived from literature research; field research in a number of countries in the West African subregion (including Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria); and interviews in the region with diplomats, government officials and officials of relevant international intergovernmental bodies (e.g. UN Office in West Africa or UNOWA, UN Office for Drugs and Crime or UNODC, the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS and the AU), NGOs and academics.
Abstract: National security is normally seen in terms of military strength and internal security operations against extremists and insurgents. The upheavals that began in Tunis, and now play out from Pakistan to Morocco,. have highlighted the fact that national security is measured in terms of the politics, economics, and social tensions that shape national stability as well. It is all too clear that the wrong kind of internal security efforts, and national security spending that limits the ability to meet popular needs and expectations can do as much to undermine national security over time as outside and extremist threats.
It is equally clear that calls for democracy are at best only the prelude to dealing with critical underlying problems, pressures, and expectations. It is far from certain that even successful regime change can evolve into functional democracies and governance. Countries with no political parties and experienced leaders, with no history of checks and balances in government, with weak structure of governance led by new political figures with no administrative experience, will often descend into chaos, extremism, or a new round of authoritarianism. Even the best governments, however, are unlikely to change an economy and national infrastructure in less than half a decade, and existing demographic pressures will inevitably go on for at least the next decade.
Abstract: The Portfolio of Mine Action Projects is a resource tool and reference document for donors, policy-makers, advocates, and national and international mine action implementers. The country and territory-specific proposals in the portfolio reflect strategic responses developed in the field to address all aspects of the problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). This country and territory-based approach aims to present as comprehensive a picture as possible of the full range of mine action needs in particular countries and thematic issues related to mine action. The portfolio ideally reflects projects developed by mine- and ERW-affected countries and territories based on their priorities and strategies; the approaches are endorsed by national authorities. The portfolio does not automatically entail full-scale direct mine action assistance by the United Nations, but is in essence a tool for collaborative resource mobilization, coordination and planning of mine action activities involving partners and stakeholders. A country portfolio coordinator (CPC) leads each country portfolio team and coordinates the submission of proposals to the portfolio’s headquarters team. While the majority of the CPCs are UN officials, this role is increasingly being assumed by national authorities. The country portfolio teams include representatives from national and local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations and the private sector. Locally based donor representatives are invited to attend preparation meetings. Each portfolio chapter contains a synopsis of the scope of the landmine and ERW problem, a description of how mine action is coordinated, and a snapshot of local mine action strategies. Many of the strategies complement or are integrated into broader development and humanitarian frameworks such as national development plans, the UN development assistance frameworks and national poverty reduction plans. This 14th edition of the annual Portfolio of Mine Action Projects features overviews and project outlines for 29 countries, territories or missions affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. There are 238 projects in the 2011 portfolio. Africa accounts for the largest number: 92.
Abstract: The purpose of this updated report is to supplement two earlier special studies published in 2009 and January 2010: “Why the Maghreb Matters: Threats, Opportunities, and Options for Effective Engagement in North Africa” (March 2009) was co-sponsored by the Conflict Management Program of the John Hopkins University jointly with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The second report, “Maghreb & Sahel Terrorism: Addressing the Rising Threat from al-Qaeda and other Terrorists in North and West/Central Africa”(January 2010), was published by the International Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
In sum, a coherent and firm US policy vis-à-vis the threats of terrorism in Maghreb and Sahel would increase domestic public understanding and support in the US for sustained engagement with the nations of North and West/Central Africa. The updated documents incorporated in this report, particularly the statistical tables and terrorism chronology covering the period September 11, 2001 – December 31, 2010 make it clear that constructive and sustained engagement is vital, employing both “hard” (security, military, intelligence cooperation) and “soft” elements (economic and social development creating employment opportunities, education that equips students/trainees for jobs, and reduction of religious radicalism). Otherwise, the US, the EU, and our friends in the region will remain hostages to, and targets of, these ideological, theological, and political terrorists for the remainder of the 21st century.
Abstract: This paper aims to appraise and map the security challenges that have faced West African countries since independence with a special focus on the period after 1990. It also assesses the efforts made by various national, regional, continental and extra-African actors and makes suggestions on how the shortcomings in these efforts could be improved. An effort is made to show the evolution of at least some of the challenges over the years, in the hope that this could contribute to a better formulation of policy responses.
The study is based on extensive review of existing literature, complemented by field research in the region undertaken in July and August 2010, in addition to general familiarity with the region from many previous research visits on related subjects.
Without neglecting other issues that could be considered as security threats, and without attempting any hierarchical ordering of these threats, the paper focuses on the following six major issues: i) armed conflict, ii) military coups and unconstitutional changes of government; iii) mismanagement of electoral processes; iv) transnational criminality, particularly drug trafficking, terrorism and maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea; v) poverty and illiteracy; vi) climate change and environmental degradation.
Abstract: Since its founding in January 2007, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
has continued the jihadi fi ght begun by its predecessor, the Salafi st Group for
Preaching and Combat (GSPC), against the Algerian government. Algeria’s
ability to contain the jihadis has forced AQIM to develop networks in the
Sahara and to cooperate with smuggling rings there. Its mobile commandos,
already active in Mauritania, now represent a serious security threat in northern
parts of Mali and Niger, where they have abducted Westerners and frequently
clashed with government forces.
Osama bin Laden appears to have no grand plans for Africa. But the
Algerian-run AQIM could help al-Qaeda central incorporate a new generation
of recruits from the Sahel. This jihadi progression south of the Sahara is
limited, but troublesome, especially given a recent offer by AQIM’s leader to
train Muslim militias in Nigeria.
However, the ethno-racial divide within al-Qaeda has kept African recruits
out of leadership roles. AQIM cannot prove its commitment to “Africanized”
jihad without Africanizing at least some of its leadership. Also, AQIM has
partnered throughout the Sahel with criminals, not local salafi movements,
limiting its appeal and preventing it from becoming a revolutionary challenger.
This does not mean deterring AQIM will be easy: Mauritania, Mali, and Niger
are among the world’s poorest states and will require international support to
defuse AQIM’s momentum. Algeria is right to push for regional cooperation
to address the threat, and discreet aid from the West is crucial to help the Sahel
countries regain control of their territory from al-Qaeda forces and prevent the
terror group from taking hold in Africa.