Citizen Coalition for the Sahel has called for a fresh approach to fighting insurgency in the Sahel region, including dialoguing with insurgents and protecting civilians from soldiers.

The coalition, which includes women’s rights groups and legal associations from mainly Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, made the call in a report, titled, The Sahel: What Needs to Change.

Supported by a coalition of 48 Sahelian, West African and international organisations, the report presents recommendations to governments of affected countries in the region and their international partners.

More than 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes and at least 13.4 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

People began fleeing the Central Sahel region in 2011 after an outbreak of violence in northern Mali. Poverty, unemployment and the presence of armed groups in rural areas of northern Mali all contributed to an increase in forced displacement.

Today, armed groups have rapidly expanded, spreading violence to central parts of Mali and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

‘Across the Central Sahel, more civilians were killed by soldiers supposed to protect them than by non-state armed groups’,

‘Yet no Burkinabe, Malian, Nigerien soldier or militia leader implicated in human rights violations has yet been brought to justice’, the coalition said in the report.

It called for fair and impartial trials into cases of killings, rape and torture committed by both sides and ‘a zero tolerance policy on offences committed by the defence and security forces and the militia’.

‘Between 2017 and 2020, attacks against civilians quintupled, from 205 to 1,096, and the number of unarmed civilians or suspects killed, including women and children, rose from 356 to 2,443, a seven-fold increase’, it said.

The report said about two billion euros ($2.4 billion) was spent every year fighting terrorism in the Sahel – four times more than the average annual amounts allocated to humanitarian aid over the past four years.

The coalition called for a drastic reordering of priorities so that the measure of success of interventions includes the number of civilians protected.

Source: Citizen Coalition for the Sahel

Photo source: UNHCR

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