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Activists urge less militarization of Sahel crisis

A group of Sahelian and West African NGOs present a report to denounce the 'predominantly military' approach of authorities to resolve crises in Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeri   -  
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BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP or licensors -

sahel

A group of Sahelian and West African NGOs denounced the essentially security-based approach of the Malian, Burkinabe and Nigerian authorities, which undermines the security of civilians, in a report made public Thursday.

The Citizens' Coalition for the Sahel, an informal alliance of dozens of civil society organizations, makes a harsh assessment of the "all-military" strategy of the powers that be, which it already deplored two years ago when it was created.

"The pursuit of essentially security strategies does not succeed in better protecting the civilian populations, who continue to lose their lives, their homes, their livelihoods, their schools," it says.

"The spiral of violence is further undermining people's trust in the state and the fragile social cohesion of countries whose vulnerability is heightened by climate change and soaring world grain prices following the war in Ukraine," it adds.

The report notes that the number of civilians killed in attacks attributed to armed extremist groups has nearly doubled since 2020 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, despite intensified military operations by the authorities.

Each day, an average of eight civilians were killed between April 2021 and March 2022. While civilian deaths attributed to elements of the security forces fell by 71 percent in 2021, they rose "dramatically" in early 2022, the report said.

The NGOs also noted that impunity for serious violations by the security forces continued to prevail, undermining people's trust in their institutions.

They emphasized the humanitarian emergency. With the number of refugees and displaced persons increasing by 35% between 2020 and 2022 and nearly 10 million people at risk of food crisis, humanitarian needs for Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali were only 43% funded at the end of 2021 compared to 31% at the end of 2020.

"The decision-makers, who continue to favor the military instrument, now consider that it is complementary to a political treatment of the crisis, which involves attempts at dialogue, including with the most extremist armed groups," said Niagalé Bagayoko, President of the African Security Sector Network (ASSN).