African studiesMaghreb studiesSecurity studies

The challenges facing Algeria in the African Sahel region

اشتراك سنوي في المكتبة المميزة (اضغط على الصورة)

Algeria has been undergoing for several years the impact of a turbulent regional context and sources of threat with a security dimension, whether on the east side in relation to the Libyan situation or in the south in relation to the African coasts. As Algeria continued in principle to reject military options in the settlement of disputes and to interfere directly in the affairs of countries and to adopt the principle of incomplete sovereignty and to favor peaceful solutions that would guarantee undiminished security for neighboring countries, but the total challenges with instability by security and military threats, such as illegal immigration, the spread of terrorism and armed groups, the presence of organized crime gangs and human trafficking,

This leads to the question of the extent of our country’s ability to adapt and move in the context of the new sub-regional system that is characterized by the disintegration or weakening of neighboring countries, such as Libya and the Sahel countries, which are obsessed with the security vacuum resulting from the fragility of the central authority and the defense and security system, as well as foreign intrusions.

We suggest to you in the following a complete file on what Algeria faces, the stakes in the African Sahel region:

 The African coast… where adults salivate

There is no doubt that the African Sahel is a region that attracts international attention with different forms, stances and wills, as the region is subject to polarization and containment, and it is the one that lives in the shadow of the paradox of the poverty and richness dialectic, or countries rich in their wealth and the poverty of their people, and most of their countries are classified among the least developed countries.

The African coast constitutes the area separating North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, as a territorial extension between the Red Sea from the east to the Atlantic Ocean from the west, and it includes the countries of Niger, Mali, Chad, Sudan and Senegal, and it is expanded to geographical and economic dimensions to a scope that includes Burkina Faso and Nigeria in a wide and difficult geopolitical space settings.

The African Sahel and Sahara region is witnessing security tensions as a result of many factors. The most important of them is that it is an area with continuous extensions, between which are natural terrain boundaries.

The region is witnessing an increase in the conflict over the natural resources of gas, oil and minerals, especially uranium, gold and phosphates, but also minerals that are exploited in important industries such as bauxite, cobalt, manganese, iron and chromium.

Niger has emerged as one of the most important producers of uranium in the brown continent, while Mali is the third producer of gold in Africa after South Africa and Ghana, in addition to the exploitation of diamonds in the “Kaniba” regions. Added to this is oil in Niger, Chad and Mauritania. Perhaps many multinational companies have rushed to areas, most of which are arid or difficult terrain, not by chance. In addition to Areva Orano groups that have been exploiting uranium for half a century, France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, Chinese companies Sinopac, CNPC and KNOC, but also American Corporation, American Gancor, Australia’s BHP Billiton and others.

The area is considered a vital depth, and the area of ​​the African Sahel region is estimated at more than 10 million square kilometers, 64% of this area is desert, and the remaining 30% is arable. The region is inhabited by about 100 million Africans, distributed among various tribes, races, and languages. On the other hand, the region is considered one of the poorest regions in the world, despite its great and important natural resources. For example, Niger, which has 23 million people, 41 percent of whom live below the poverty line, while the poverty rate in Mali is 42 percent, and the two countries are from Algeria’s direct neighbors to the south.

Therefore, the various international powers launched multiple programs to protect their strategic interests in the region across multiple levels, which is demonstrated by the various activities and activities of the European Union and the United States, in addition to the position of France, the old colonialist, and the new interests in the Sahel region, especially from the Gulf alliance and Turkey.

Western parties realized early on the strategic importance of the African coast and the comprehensiveness of the coast with its strategic depth, in light of the prevailing insecurity complex with multiple dimensions, as the United States adopted a policy of geopolitical redeployment and positioning, both through AFRICOM and a military presence similar to the establishment of bases and the project to confront ISIS in West Africa, and support American presence through fulcrums and bases.

On the other hand, France is experiencing contradictions in its external behavior towards the coast, between trying to revive its colonial legacy and wearing the mantle of the European Union in search of legitimacy and official and popular justifications to support the intervention it adopted through Operation Serval in Mali in 2012, and then Barkhane in 2014, in light of Chinese competition and the interests of the developing powers Also, Russia and Turkey, which established a base in Niger.

Seven years of the French forces’ presence on the coast through Operation Serval and Barkhane did not decipher the security challenge. According to the latest report by the International Crisis Group on coordinating stabilization strategies; All indications and evidence remain that armed groups have regained their activity and initiative in the field and expansion, especially in central Mali, but also along the borders in southwestern Niger and northern and eastern Burkina Faso, especially the Support of Islam and Muslims and ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

Perhaps the warnings of French intelligence interests, in the words of the head of foreign intelligence, Bernard Aimee, on February 1, 2021, is the best evidence of the security challenge, while acknowledging the expansion of the scope of the activity of armed groups as an indicator of Paris’s failure towards the coast of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, including Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, which explains The American move to resurrect and expand the activity of AFRICOM, but also the international coalition to combat ISIS, to extend to West Africa. While the length of the French forces’ stay in the five Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania) to consolidate their influence in their former colonies, it remains controversial and costly in light of the struggle waged by international powers to seize African markets, with Paris relying on the region as an advanced buffer zone to confront Security challenges, including confronting the spread of terrorist organizations and considering them as the arena for confronting waves of illegal immigration from Africa to Europe via the Mediterranean.

Focusing in the region ensures that Paris closely follows up and influences a number of important regional files, such as the developments of the Libyan crisis, relations with the North African countries, interactions in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Red Sea security equation to the east, at a time when the Sahel and Sahara countries are considered a gateway to the center and west of the continent. African.

 Russia, Guetta, and Debbie’s killing shuffle the cards

Accelerated developments in the Sahel region, imposed by several facts, including what is related to changes within the system of government in some major countries such as Chad and Mali, and others related to the activity and agenda of armed movements, and others are no less important and perhaps most important, related to the game of interests and breaking bones between international powers, including from He wants to impose his presence in the strategic area, and others want to preserve their historical gains.

The new situations in Chad, with the killing of President Idriss Deby, and the two successive coups that took place in Mali, contributed to the emergence of changes on the ground that the Sahel region would not have known so quickly. These developments were not in her favour.

And the French president moved from threatening to implementing by ending the “Barkhane” mission in the coast and closing his army bases in northern Mali, with the aim of redeploying them in the southern regions that witness greater terrorist operations. Followers saw in the move more to do with the arrival of Colonel Asimi Guita to power than it has to do with military data. It requires a change in the plan.

According to observers, the activity of terrorist movements has not changed, it is the same, whether in the north or in the south of Mali and in the border triangle with Niger and Burkina Faso. But what changed was the fall of the regime of Ibrahim Abubakar Kaita – a friend of Paris – through the first coup carried out by Asimi Guetta and the inauguration of Bah Ndao, and the second coup of Guita against Bah Ndoh, which angered Paris strongly.

Macron had previously said in an interview with the newspaper “Le Journal du Dimanche”, a few days after the Guetta coup, that Paris would withdraw its forces from Mali if this country moved towards “radical Islamism”, a threat he made recently by announcing the end of the “Barkhane” mission and withdrawing its forces from Northern Mali in the first quarter of next year.

Observers believe that Macron’s decision was closer to punishing Asimi of Guetta for his recent coup, and they argue that Macron does not look satisfactorily at Gueta, which explains his position on the recent coup, because Guetta appears to be closer to Russia, France’s new rival in the Sahel, where he was He has participated in a conference on security attended by the commanders of the armies and staff in Moscow recently. It also does not justify Paris’s position on the military coup and the military’s survival in Mali, because it adopted a contradictory position in Chad after the killing of Idriss Deby, and was behind the inauguration of his son Mohamed Deby at the head of the transitional authority instead of applying the articles of the Chadian constitution that stipulate handing over power to the Speaker of Parliament.

And speaking of Chad; France has been affected by the loss of an important ally and a man who had influence in the whole region, and his departure even affected the French presence in Central Africa, which it lost to Russia, which became the sponsoring power for the new rulers.

France today wants to redraw a new strategy by shifting its coordination from Mali and Chad to Niger. It seems that the President of Niger has engaged in this strategy, by supporting Paris’ plans and adopting its positions, not only with regard to withdrawing the bases; Rather, with regard to the situation in Mali, during his meeting with the French President in Paris during the recent Sahel summit, Asimi Guetta, in which he said that the military is their place on the battlefronts and not in power, which caused great anger in Bamako, who summoned the Niger ambassador to her to inform her of their protest. On the statements of Muhammad Bazoum.

However, will changing the system of alliances change the situation in the Sahel region? Or is it just a useless rearrangement of papers? What is certain about ending the tasks of the French forces or changing their areas of presence in the coast and changing allies, is nothing but a change in the powders of a corroded facade, which will not affect the depth and causes of the conditions in the Sahel region, because the constant is that the French approach to fighting terrorism was not feasible and did not achieve the goals set. . After eight years of spread, it was not able to eliminate terrorist groups, and stability did not return to the region. On the contrary, greater terrorist operations were recorded and the groups’ strength increased, especially in the border triangle between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and the growing demands for the withdrawal of France’s forces, which seem to have begun She loses the threads of the game and finds herself in a difficult situation reflected in her recent decisions.

The French approach was highly criticized; Because it relied on a purely military solution and neglected the developmental aspect that was part of its plans and strategy when it intervened militarily in 2013. It is known that the biggest challenge for the peoples of the region; It is to overcome poverty, which was the Trojan horse of terrorist groups in influencing the youth of the region and recruiting them into their ranks. This situation necessitates the adoption of new strategies with an international consensus, that translates the desires of the peoples of the Sahel region and their view of a solution, not the view of foreign powers that seek to achieve and preserve their interests at all costs. .

 The blazing south of the Sahara and the constant trouble of France فرنسا

The stabilization strategies in the Sahel region supported by France have reached a critical turning point.. France’s allies – just like some French officials – are increasingly aware of the need to review these strategies, including subjecting Operation Barkhane to budget cuts, in parallel with the difficulties faced by the region. The Sahel, highlighted by the changing nature of the conflict and its geographical expansion.

While Algeria chose the path of cautious calm, the region witnessed, during the past ten years, several initiatives, some of which succeeded, but at a high cost that cost the coffers of the countries involved in the conflicts in the Sahel billions of dollars, which indicates that it has become very difficult to continue, and therefore the inevitability of moving to efforts to strengthen Stability, after reaching the conviction that there is no point in strengthening the military presence and the financial resources mobilized on the ground, because they are simply and also bitter, will not prevent this situation from deteriorating further.

Within this perspective, the Crisis Group Center report advises that it is now necessary to focus on action strategies in order to coordinate efforts to achieve stability, which revolve around “improving governance and commitment to political dialogue at the community level” in countries where conflicts are raging.

Those familiar with the delicate conditions that the Sahel is going through advise that any review of the accounts and agendas of the great powers in the Sahel, that does not take into account the support of security and development projects and the revival of ties between states and populations in rural areas, is doomed to abject failure.

The report points the finger at the failure to establish security in the Sahel region, which caused the expansion of the terrorist threat and the exacerbation of the game of polarization and containment practiced by other competing countries, mainly to France, accusing it of becoming involved in a context characterized by societal violence and rebellions led by jihadists, in addition to Loss of people’s trust in their governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

As for the authors of the report, which looks at the situation in the region for the year 2021, France’s initiatives and burdensome expenditures to enhance security, development and good governance in the Sahel did not go beyond the scope of military operations aimed at defeating the jihadists militarily.

Adding to the troubles of Paris, the old colonial power of the Sahel, is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the trend towards recession, by slowing peacekeeping operations in Mali, training coastal security forces and development activities.

The report spoke pessimistically about the future of the French role in the region, especially after anxiety and doubt crept into the ranks of Paris’s allies, especially after the coups in Mali and Chad, the continued stalking of the new Niger president, Mohamed Bazoum, and the widening of the African rejection of France and its presence in decision-making centers in the governments of its colonies. This requires – according to observers from Paris and its partners – to rearrange their priorities by prioritizing governance, by strengthening the ability of governments to provide basic services to citizens, while setting priorities for easing tensions through dialogue with and among societies, and encouraging political and economic reforms. Particularly by improving the control of national wealth and public finances.

Another important point.. Eight years after the arrival of French forces to fight terrorists in Mali, the region is going through a deep crisis, as the first French operations, which were carried out in 2013, had a great impact in impeding the terrorists’ advance towards central Mali in the south and deep in the Algerian desert in the north (aggressions Tamanrasset, Warfalla and Tiventurine).

But since the “death makers” resumed their expansion, especially in the center of the country, and crossed the borders to settle in southwestern Niger, as well as in northern and eastern Burkina Faso, it became clear that it was difficult for the French forces to keep pace with these threats, which are behind them in particular, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims. . The local branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) has also exploited tensions within rural communities in these areas, enlisting disaffected residents in their operations.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

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