The Sahel Region: A mosaic


  • Oskar Jakobsson
  • Mikael Eriksson

Publish date: 2012-06-26

Report number: FOI-R--3446--SE

Pages: 66

Written in: Swedish


  • Africa
  • AU
  • Sahel
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Mauritania
  • Algeria
  • Libya
  • AQMI
  • al-Qaida
  • AQIM
  • the Maghreb
  • security
  • Tuareg
  • MNLA
  • Ansar al-Din
  • Azawad
  • insurrection
  • coup d´etat
  • terrorism


In the first half of 2012 the Sahel region underwent a turbulent transformation in its security situation. Challenges, such as extreme drought, migration and poverty, combined with the implications of the Arab uprisings in North Africa and recurring regional conflicts, coups d'état and organised crime, have created a volatile regional security situation. In particular, the negative implications of the war in Libya have contributed to the violence and tension in the Sahel. While the negative effects of large flows of migrants and arms from Libya into the Sahel were largely expected, the speed and extent of this dynamic, especially with regard to Mali, caught stakeholders off-guard. The Sahel region is at a crossroads. Ongoing conflicts could either be contained or risk further spill over into neighbouring countries and the wider region. The armed group to benefit most from this turbulence is AQMI. The threats which the group and its allies pose to regional and external actors in Sahel will require the attention of the international community for some time to come. The geographic proximity and increasing severity of the conflict have led the EU to seek to more actively implement its comprehensive regional strategy in the Sahel. In mid-2012 the strategy was expanded to include a civil mission to help strengthen the capacity of Niger's national security forces to guard against violent spillover from the instability in Mali. Nonetheless, the EU's actions and programmes alone will not be sufficient to turn the tide of negative developments. Increased regional cooperation is required, not least through the AU and ECOWAS. Mobilisation to resolve the underlying popular dissatisfaction which drives regional instability is an essential precondition for a more stable security situation.