Sahel: local civil society calls for a change of approach in the response to the crisis

“The fight against terrorism cannot be the only horizon of the International Coalition for the Sahel.” Call for the establishment of a “People’s coalition for the Sahel”.
Bamako/Niamey/Ouahigouya/Paris, 11 June 2020
Representatives of West African civil society today called for the establishment of a “People’s Coalition for the Sahel” on the eve of the first ministerial meeting of the “International Coalition for the Sahel” on Friday 12 June. The G5 Sahel countries and France announced the initiative at a summit of heads of state in Pau in January 2020.
During an online press conference, five local actors and experts highlighted the shortcomings of the current approach to the crisis in the Sahel and presented their priorities for a more effective response to the multiple challenges facing civilian populations in the region. They underscored their desire to contribute their local expertise to engage in a constructive and robust dialogue with the governments of the region and their international partners.
Victor Ouedraogo, a Catholic priest in Ouahigouya, northern Burkina Faso, director of the Diocesan Centre for Communication and representative of the northern region at the National Office of Religious Facts of Burkina Faso (ONAFAR), said:
“Not a week goes by without us learning of macabre news, killings and attacks linked to terrorist groups and other armed forces. This has led to the massive displacement of 800,000 people. Women are deprived of their freedom, even in camps where they thought they were safe. More than 2,000 schools are closed, and 300,000 students are deprived of their right to education.
On the ground, we see little improvement. We believe that the concept of security must be broadened to involve local people in the management of this crisis. The weapons we need are the weapons of development, to give women and young people a future.”
Abas Mallam, jurist and secretary-general of the Niger Network for the Non-Violent Management of Conflicts (RE-GENOVICO), speaking alongside Boubacar Oumarou, national coordinator of RE-GENEVICO, stated: “The fight against terrorism has not led to the expected results. We sometimes wonder whether the interventions in the Sahel have not in fact aggravated the situation. The terrorists have not been defeated and we have created problems with suspicion and loss of trust between communities and the state. There is a need to shift the response to focus on the protection of civilians. We cannot limit ourselves to the surface; we need to work on the root causes of the conflict. This is why we propose the creation of a “People’s Coalition for the Sahel”, as a counterpart to the International Coalition, to encourage the international community and countries in the region to redirect their actions to better protection of the population.”
Niagalé Bagayoko, political scientist and president of the Africa Security Sector Network, a think tank based in Accra, Ghana that specializes in security sector reform in Africa, said:
“The fight against terrorism cannot be the only horizon of the International Coalition. There is today a lot of work being carried out by the actors closest to the people and to communities. This expertise is not sufficiently mobilized. Civil society is eager to engage in a constructive – and critical – dialogue with governments and to offer our expertise to tackle the root causes of the conflict together.”
Drissa Traore, national coordinator of the joint project Association malienne des droits de l’Homme AMDH/International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said:
“At present, security responses are prioritised without consulting the very communities that are supposed to be protected by the security forces. This may contribute to human rights violations.
We expect the International Coalition to go beyond mere statements. There is no shortage of solutions but implementing them requires real political will. The “People’s Coalition” we are calling for could meaningfully contribute to convincing governments to put the protection of civilians and human security at the heart of the response.”
ENDS
Note to editors:
Participants in the press conference are available for interview, as are other spokespersons for national and international human rights and humanitarian organizations working in the Sahel. An audio recording and summary transcript of the press conference is available upon request. Please contact:
Sylvain Biville: [email protected], +33 6 68 12 11 53.
Mahault Bernard: [email protected] .
The press briefing was facilitated by Crisis Action, an international NGO working for the protection of civilians in conflict. Please note that Crisis Action works without public visibility and should therefore not be quoted or mentioned in the media.

Source: Crisis Action

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