Riddled with uncertainty, West Africa has snowballed into a time bomb given the youth demographic triggers, grinding poverty and glaringly notorious unemployment, ethnic and tribal conflicts, porous borders, and worsening desertification. In a ten-year trajectory, the population of the region will double; it is infamously flawed with marked levels of undernourishment, which claimed the lives of nearly 6,500 people in only three countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger in 2020. Again, the people in a dire need of urgent humanitarian assistance made up about 13.4 million (20%) of the population.
Against a backdrop of such a painful reality, a breeding ground was made favorable conducive for the terrorist organizations across the region. Doggedly unbridled, such terrorist organizations were almost overnight catapulted into the limelight. The situation became more volatile and labyrinthine, and the region has slipped into uneasy turbulence over the recent years, producing a spate of terrorist organizations and groups, which divide, combine, compete, and fight, while thousands of people falling victims to such belligerency. For instance, Boko Haram killed more than ISIS did in Syria and Iraq, and the Nigerian Security Observatory (NST, 2021) reported that from June 2011 to June 2018 the group killed 37,530 people, which is nearly double the estimates recorded by other parties, which made up only 20,000 deaths in the same period. In the same vein, the Armed Conflict Database Project (ACLED) estimated 3,346 incidents, in which 34,261 people were killed.
In 2019, ISIS carried out the largest terrorist operations in Africa, claiming 982 people in Sub-Saharan alone, as revealed by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI, 2020). When ISIS shifted its center of gravity from the Middle East to Africa, the Sahel sustained in 2019 an increase rate of killings by 67% vis-à-vis 2018, and the growth of groups linked to ISIS in the Sahel fueled terrorist acts across the countries of the region, making three of them suffer an increase in terrorist acts, as revealed by (GTI, 2020).
In a similar vein, Al-Qaeda has its second strongest branch in the region after Al-Shabab in Somalia, alternatively named JAMA’A NUSRAT AL-ISLAM WA AL-MUSLIMIN (JNIM); it was formed in 2017 by merging several affiliated organizations. The ISIS branch in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Supporting Islam and Muslims Group are the most active terrorist groups across the region; they carry out most of their attacks, where they control large swaths of territory of the region and can act with relative impunity. They sneaked through the borders to carry out attacks in the countries of the region, and ISWAP, while Boko Haram attacks Niger and Chad from Nigeria, where they enjoy such havens.
Stratfor Security and Intelligence reported that despite the French military support for years throughout the region spearheaded by Operation Barkhane (August 2014), a feasible mechanism has not yet come into play to shore up the ramshackle situation in the region.
France’s joint G5 force across the region, a regional counterterrorism force made up of nearly 4,000 soldiers still suffers financial and operational setbacks, hence rendering it unsuccessful.
On June 10 of 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane, and that the French government plans to keenly fight terrorists in the region within European and international missions.