Tag Archives: United Nations peacekeeping

The Worst Murderer: Jihadists or Governments?

Sahel: West Africa’s most populous countries, along the Atlantic coast, have become vulnerable to the predations of jihadists spilling out of failing states farther north in the Sahel on the borders of the Sahara desert. Jihadists seized control of chunks of Mali in 2012 and were stopped from overrunning Bamako, its capital, only after thousands of French troops were hurriedly flown in. The insurgents have since pushed across the border into Niger and Burkina Faso. In those three countries alone, 4,800 people lost their lives in the conflict last year. Fully 1.7m people have been forced to flee their homes. Now the war is beginning to jump borders again, putting at risk some of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, including Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast.


This war in the Sahel has been growing rapidly. Ten times more people were killed last year than in 2014 (excluding deaths in north-eastern Nigeria, which faces its own jihadist insurgents). Two main jihadist groups are behind most of the fighting: the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), which is linked to al-Qaeda. These groups have extended their reach, even though thousands of international peacekeepers and local and Western soldiers have been deployed to stop them. France has sent some 5,100 troops to the Sahel, while the United States has provided another 1,200. In addition, the un has 15,000 blue helmets there, including about 350 Germans, plus 250 British soldiers who are soon to arrive. With American forces leaving Afghanistan, the Sahel will soon be the West’s biggest combat zone.

Worse, the jihadists are expanding in three directions at once. To the south they threaten Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo. To the west there has been a spate of attacks in Mali close to its border with Senegal; and to the east with Nigeria’s insurgent groups. The jihadists already have a “de facto safe haven in northern Mali”, says General Dagvin Anderson, in charge of America’s commandos in Africa. He frets that as they expand they will have more scope to plan attacks on American soil.

The weakness of governments and the feebleness of their public services are helping the jihadists. In the neglected hinterlands of the Sahel the rebels offer themselves as an alternate state, serving up sharia and medical aid. Moreover, the jihadists have been adept at exploiting ethnic faultlines, for instance between largely Muslim and seminomadic Fulani herders and more settled farming communities, which have their own armed groups of traditional hunters known as Dozos. =

Trade and commerce also provide an incentive for the jihadists to expand their reach. The migration corridor between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast is the busiest in Africa. Jihadists cash in by taxing traders and smuggling stolen livestock, drugs and guns. The gold mines in Burkina Faso have become a target. Much of the gold is smuggled out through Togo, which officially exported seven tonnes of the metal to the United Arab Emirates in 2018, despite mining very little itself. Gold is also pulling jihadists towards Senegal…

But in 2020, more civilians in the Sahel have been killed by government soldiers than by jihadists, says José Luengo-Cabrera of the International Crisis Group (icg), a Brussels-based ngo. “When soldiers kill the head of the family, they almost throw his sons and nephews into the arms of bearded men in shorts hiding in the bush,” one villager told Human Rights Watch, a global monitor. It says in the town of Djibo alone, in Burkina Faso, evidence suggests government forces have murdered 180 men—many of them were blindfolded and had their hands bound before they were shot. In Burkina Faso… citizens may feel safer living among terrorists than with their own country’s security forces.

Governments in the region and some Western forces have made matters worse by supporting militias. In 2018 the French army allied itself with Tuareg militias from Mali to fight against ISGS. They clobbered the jihadists but also killed scores of civilians, aggravating ethnic tensions and fuelling recruitment by the insurgents….Above all, governments need to regain legitimacy by providing services and holding themselves to account. “It is not possible to win the war if there is not trust from the population,” says Niagale Bagayoko of the African Security Sector Network…But good governance and decent services in the region are scarce. At a meeting of Sahelian leaders with Mr hard. In Burkina Faso alone, the jihadists have forced about 2,500 schools to close.

Excerpts from Jihad in the Sahel: Fighting a Spreading Insurgency, Economist, July 11, 2020

South Sudan as a State

“There is no evidence to suggest that more weapons are required in South Sudan for the government to achieve a stable security environment,” the UN monitors said. “Rather, the continued influx of weapons … contributes to spreading instability and the continuation of the conflict.”

They said while Sudan had provided small arms, bullets and logistical support to opposition troops, they “found no evidence to date that Sudan – or any other neighbouring country – has provided heavy weapons … which has limited the opposition’s ability to mount large-scale operations.”

Two truckloads of ammunition were transferred to the capital Juba from Uganda in June 2016, while in 2015 South Sudanese army chief Paul Malong asked a Lebanese company to begin developing a small ‘arms ammunition manufacturing facility in Juba, the monitors said.

A UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) has been in South Sudan since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011.The UN monitors said that in rhetoric and action, government-affiliated forces “have actively threatened the operations and personnel of UNMISS and other UN agencies, and both parties have continued to target humanitarian workers.”

During the violence in July 2016, between 80 and 100 uniformed soldiers overran Juba’s Hotel Terrain compound, home to the staff of international organizations, and in four hours killed an ethnic Nuer journalist and raped at least five foreign aid workers and other staff working at the compound, the monitors said.The monitors said given the number of soldiers involved, the number of items stolen and the systematic damage inflicted, “this attack was well co-ordinated and cannot be considered as an opportunistic act of violence and robbery.”,,,

A political rivalry between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and opposition leader Riek Machar, a Nuer, sparked the civil war. The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago, but fighting has continued. Machar fled the country after the violence between their troops erupted in July 2016

Excerpts South Sudan buying arms as economy collapses – UN panel, Reuters, Sept, 9 2016

Drones in Peacekeeping Operations: South Sudan

The U.N. Security Council is urging the use of unarmed drones in the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, but the government there says that could cause “disagreement and hostility” as a peace deal tries to take hold.  The council on October 9, 2015 adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution requesting the U.N. secretary-general to “prioritize” the deployment of remaining troops, plus military helicopters and drones. The U.N. is exploring the use of drones in a growing number of peacekeeping missions after first using them in Congo in 2013.  But deploying the drones — even getting them into South Sudan — needs government consent. “The mission requires the collaboration and cooperation from the host authorities for its operations, including air and aviation ones,” a U.N. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.  Ambassador Francis Deng told the council that requesting drones without consulting his government is “to invite controversy.”

South Sudan’s rival sides signed a peace deal in August 2015, but numerous cease-fire violations have been reported. Each side blames the other for the violations. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 civilians remain sheltered in U.N. bases throughout the country. Thousands have been killed in the conflict fueled by the rivalry between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.  The council resolution also extends the peacekeeping mission’s mandate until Dec. 15 while supporting the implementation of the peace deal. The mission has more than 12,500 uniformed personnel on the ground.

Excerpts from UN Wants Peacekeeping Drones in South Sudan, Which Objects, Associated Press, Oct. 10, 2015