Locating The Crisis In Africa’s Sahel Region: Threat To International Peace – OpEd

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We are living in a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) era where most of the countries are trying to put their efforts to improve human development, infrastructure, healthcare systems, sanitation, climate, and taking actions to prevent environment degradation. 

The objective of SDG goals by the United Nations is to facilitate inclusive growth in the world where global poverty, hunger and climate-related issues can be eliminated to foster economic and social growth across the continents and countries. It is good to see that the USA, UK, and European countries are performing better on the SDG goals whereas a few Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and other countries are struggling with regional and economic challenges and framing the appropriate policy to achieve this inclusive growth agenda before 2030. The race to achieve these goals is getting more prominent for the economic, social and climate matters for most of the countries. On the other hand, few countries are striving for the endurance at the world map and looking for the world attention and immediate assistance. 

Africa, one of the largest continents of the world, has been put in ignorance by the world’s major economies. It is needless to remind that Africa is the world’s second largest and second-most populous continent. With 1.4 billion people as of 2021 accounting for about 18% of the world’s human population. A lot of debate is happening about the present state of the African continent’s socio-economic and security conditions.

There are several reasons for the economic and social crisis of these African countries, but the world’s most neglected and conflict-ridden area includes spans of 5,900 km starts from the Atlantic Ocean in west Africa to the Red Sea in east Africa consisting of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan – The Sahel Region. According to the sustainable development report 2022, The countries South Sudan and Chad from Sahel Region were ranked 163 and 161 in the list of a total of 163 countries worldwide. Accordingly, the ranks of Mali and Niger were 142 and 149 in the list, which is quite dismal from a world point of view. The human development index 2021-22, by UNDP states that Mali, Niger, Chad, and South Sudan fall under the category of low human development, which starts after 160 countries out of 191 countries in the world. 

From the beginning, the Sahel region has a long history of problems, starting with famines and ill managed natural resources. Thousands of people have died from diarrhea, starvation, dehydration, malnutrition, and respiratory disease till now. Repeated drought cycles plunge communities into a new food crisis before they have a chance to recover sufficiently from the last one. This has led to a worsening situation in the Sahel region, particularly desertification, soil loss and global warming, creating a vacuum for human survival in the region. Geographically, there is a shortage of food and water in the area due to the dry climate. For the 2022 Global Hunger Index report, data was assessed for 121 countries. Individual scores for South Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique could not be calculated and ranks could not be determined owing to lack of data and Mali, Niger and Chad were ranked 93, 115 and 117, which is quite serious and alarming for the African continent and the world also. 

In addition to this, The Jihadi terrorist organization such as Boko Haram’s, Islamic State, and Al Qaida’s strong presence in the area also put lots of economic, social, and administrative challenges for the people in the Sahel region. According to the Global Terrorism Index report 2022 published by Institute for Economics and Peace, out of 18 countries globally that record a deterioration in terms of the impact of terrorism between 2020-21, eight of them were in the sub-Saharan region and around 30000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the region since 2007. This has led to a cycle of violence and vulnerability in the Sahel region.

A pattern seems to be emerging in the Sahel where-by terrorist groups are targeting chiefs, mayors, council members, and religious leaders, creating a power vacuum in the area. Inability of Sahelian government failed to provide security assistance in the region and has become inefficient, slow, and sporadic in counter insurgency operations. As the result of this, Sahel region has become the hub of political, economic, social, and cultural crisis and chaos in the world. 

In the world context, Political turmoil in Myanmar, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka and rise of Islamic state in different regions posted a new threat before the world. Terrorist organizations like Islamic state and Al – Qaida are making their strong presence with the help of local actors and Boko Haram in the Sahel region. This alliance can be a global threat specifically for the European and Asian countries which can temper the balance of regional securities and political stabilities.  

In an interactive session at a conference in the Slovakian capital Bratislava in 2022, Minister of External Affairs of India, S. Jaishankar, responding to a question on India’s official position on the Ukraine conflict, said, “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” S. Jaishankar said Europe was also silent on many developments in Asia.

By Imbibing the Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam The world is one family’ and in view of the S. Jaishankar’s above statement, the time has come that developed countries and UN council must give serious attention to the wretched condition of Sahel region. The vision of inclusive growth for the world by the UN also includes the right to have basic amenities, food, shelter, education, medical aids, security, and adequate living conditions for the sake of humanity in this region. There were many instances when repercussion of social and economic imbalance of one region affected the neighboring countries and other regions. To conclude, world cannot sit quietly and remain silent on the present state of affairs in the culturally rich Sahel region of Africa.

About the authors:

  •  Dr. Aditya Anshu, Assistant Professor of International Relations at Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  •  Nipun Tyagi is Deputy Manager of International Affairs at Bennett University, Times Group, India.

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