UNHCR calls for support to end Sahel conflicts: Libya, Nigeria, and Islamists

UNHCR calls for support to end Sahel conflicts: Libya, Nigeria, and Islamists

Kanako Mita, Sawako Utsumi, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Sahel and Lake Chad region faces many ethnic and religious issues. Hence, Islamic terrorism blights countless nations throughout the region. Ethnic tensions and fragile political systems also persist. Therefore, al-Qaeda and affiliates of ISIS (IS – Islamic State) utilize various vacuums.

The destabilization of Libya under former leader President Barack Obama of the United States – and rampant corruption in Nigeria and the failure to defeat Boko Haram – are other important factors. Hence, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni Islamist forces have utilized the failed state of Libya while Boko Haram spreads terrorism to neighboring nations of Nigeria. Thus, the Sahel and Lake Chad regions suffer from these horrendous convulsions.

Relief Web in 2012, concerning the legacy of Libya, reported, “While the impact of the crisis reverberated across the world, such neighboring countries as Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger and Tunisia bore the brunt of the challenges that emerged as a result of the crisis. In a relatively short period of time, the Governments of these countries, especially those in the Sahel region, had to contend with the influx of hundreds of thousands of traumatized and impoverished returnees as well as the inflow of unspecified and unquantifiable numbers of arms and ammunition from the Libyan arsenal. Although the volume and the impact of the returnee population differs from one country to the other, the influx clearly has the potential to further exacerbate an already precarious and tenuous situation. In addition, these countries are directly threatened by an impending food security and nutrition crisis that could further exacerbate and negatively affect the political, social and economic situation in the region.”

The Sahel Alliance says, “The Sahel region is full of potentials which makes this area a land of opportunity: human capital, natural resources, renewable energy potential… Unfortunately, several factors hinder its development: The G5 Sahel countries—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad—face many challenges, including chronic insecurity, a lack of economic prospects, and poor access to education, employment and essential services such as water and electricity.” 

Sunni Islamist Takfiri indoctrination seeks to spread its ideology throughout the Sahel and to other nations outside of the G5 Sahel bloc – this is equally dangerous for indigenous Islam and Christians. For example, terrorist forces emanating from northern Nigeria have spread their upheaval to Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. ISIS and various al-Qaeda affiliates are equally active in nations like Libya. Therefore, the security situation throughout a vast region is under enormous strain – and Christians in Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria are also targeted by Islamists.

The Security Council Report uttered, “Terrorism threats remain a key issue, as do the good offices activities of UNOWAS around electoral and political tensions. Annadif’s counterpart, Special Representative François Louncény Fall of the UN Office on Central Africa, has led UN efforts in responding to the recent crisis in Chad. Chad plays a critical role in contributing to the Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S), which comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger; to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) fighting Boko Haram; and to MINUSMA. Drug trafficking, inter-communal violence and piracy are other regional threats that are linked at times with terrorist groups.”

Over two million refugees exist in the Sahel region. This concerns the violence unleashed by Islamic terrorists that kills many thousands of people each year in this part of Africa. Islamists also utilize ethnic tensions in nations that include Mali, Nigeria, and others. Therefore, already weak infrastructures are being neglected further because resources are needed to contain various Islamic insurgencies – and criminal forces that utilize the political vacuums.

Voice of America reports, “UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency is calling for international action to end the armed conflict in Africa’s Central Sahel region, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2.5 million over the last decade.”

Boris Cheshirkov, U.N. refugee spokesperson, said, “What we have been calling for and we repeat this call again now is for a unified, a strategic, a substantial intervention in the Sahel that will make sure that international efforts are supporting the governments and host communities … and a security response cannot prevail on its own. It needs to be hand-in-glove with humanitarian and development action.”

It is incumbent on the international community to focus on the Sahel region, Lake Chad, and ongoing events in Libya and Nigeria. If not, then these convulsions will continue to spread far and wide. This notably concerns Sunni Islamic terrorism, refugees fleeing outside the region, and increasing issues related to malnutrition.



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