"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
The past few weeks, and arguably the past years, have not been kind to the Sahelian countries. As mentioned before, due to the Covid-19 situation, we have been in Belgium since June. A week ago, an attack killed 8 people, including several French NGO workers as they were visiting a national park just outside Niamey. The park was famous for the West-African giraffes that lived there. The area was considered safe, and when were in Niamey we visited several times as a family. Of course, this will further hit the (limited) tourist sector – France has already put pretty much the entire country as a “red” zone as a result of the attack. Those living in Niamey are like to face further restrictions.
In addition to this, the past few months Niger has also faced financial and human rights scandals hitting the army. The economic crisis linked to Covid-19 will inevitably hit the country hard. Regionally, the recent coup d’état in Mali, even if the civilian government was very unpopular (and many welcome the coup), does not augur well for the region.
Ever since the war in Libya and the French intervention in Mali in 2013, the question remains if the situation is improving. The G5 Sahel is having difficulty getting operational. While a lot has happened in terms of technical assistance (including by several EU member states and a CSDP mission) and a lot of development cooperation has taken place (not only did partners of Niger scale up efforts, but countries like the Netherlands started a relationship with the country). But with the overall impact of Covid-19 unclear, it is certain that the economic impact will be disastrous (though never seen before low growth seems certain; only question how low and for how long). The fact remains that no clear victory has been gained against the terrorist movements in the region since 2013. Unfortunately, the past few years may have been “easier” than what’s ahead.
21.08.2020, Brussels, Belgium.
Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.