Unfortunately, the bitter message that is often overlooked is that many people in the villages of the Sahel countries have experienced their own state (which is often closely linked to Western states) and its army as brutal, corrupt and unreliable. And Europe may have to get used to the idea that these countries have no choice but to negotiate with Islamist groups if they ever want to escape war.
Countries constantly on the brink
The political turmoil in Burkina Faso is symptomatic of a crisis that stretches across the Sahel belt. Again and again, it is about Mali, which is falling apart.
The turmoil in Burkina Faso is a symptom of a crisis that stretches across the Sahel belt, the climatically very fragile strip that separates the Sahara from tropical Africa. They are countries that are more or less close to the abyss, violence in Sudan's Darfur has flared up again, tensions in Chad have not been dealt with. The Boko Haram rebellion has been crushing northern Nigeria for years.
And again and again Mali: a country once considered by many to be a model African democracy is crumbling. Despite the presence of French soldiers and UN troops, the population can hardly escape bloody conflicts between murderous militias and often merciless army units. Now Russian mercenaries, called in by the coup government in Bamako, are supposed to fix things. But who is actually still protecting or threatening whom here is difficult to determine in the confusing expanses of the semi-desert.
The fate of the French elite troops in the Sahel is a good illustration of how risky the political quicksand is for powers intervening there. Initially, the French were hailed as saviours in Mali, but their reputation has suffered and is now considered dubious to ruined. Yes, they have taken out jihadist commanders, one after the other. France regularly celebrated military successes against Islamist militias in Mali.
But it has also lost numerous soldiers and must ask itself what good all this will do if it does not at the same time succeed in integrating all population groups into a peace process that could lay the foundation for a stable state.
Are European soldiers in the Sahel the longed-for fire brigade - or rather involuntary fire accelerators?
Unfortunately, the bitter message that is often overlooked is that many people in the villages of the Sahel states have experienced their own state and its army as brutal, corrupt and unreliable. And Europe may have to get used to the idea that these countries have no choice but to negotiate with Islamist groups if they ever want to escape war.
Sahel expert: Coup in Burkina Faso further destabilises region
Frankfurt a.M., Niamey (epd). The military coup in Burkina Faso was foreseeable, according to Sahel expert Ulf Laessing. "There has been rumblings in the army for a long time," Laessing, who heads the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Sahel regional programme, told the Evangelical Press Service (epd) in Niamey on Tuesday. Since 2015, the security situation in the West African country has deteriorated dramatically. Many soldiers are dissatisfied because they feel abandoned by the government in the fight against jihadists.
In Burkina Faso, the military had declared on Monday evening that it had taken over power after the arrest of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The move was justified by the poor security situation. Among the soldiers, frustration had grown enormously after the attack with dozens of dead on a gendarmerie in November, said Laessing. After the attack, it became public that the security forces stationed there had not been supplied for weeks.
At the same time, the support in the army for the putschists is still unclear. "We don't know whether the military is united behind the new rulers," said Laessing. It remains to be seen whether the putschists will improve the security situation in the country or ensure better equipment and supplies for the army because of structural problems. The expert warned that jihadist fighters were also establishing themselves in the neighbouring states of Ghana and Togo via the south of the country. "The whole region could be further destabilised."
At the same time, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation expert warned that the coup in Burkina Faso could encourage militants in other West African countries to seize power. "There is a danger that the model will continue to set a precedent," he said. Countries in the Sahel region in particular were struggling with similar problems such as widespread poverty, jihadist insurgencies and the consequences of climate change, he said. The army is an important power factor in countries with weak state structures, he said. Military governments are already in power in Guinea and Mali.
The coup in Burkina Faso shows once again that European Sahel policy also needs to be reconsidered, said Laessing. The German Armed Forces' deployment in Mali within the framework of the Blue Helmet Mission Minusma contributes to stabilisation, but neither military engagement, for example within the framework of the EUTM training mission, nor development programmes have really improved the situation. Developing alternative approaches, however, is difficult, he conceded. Structural conflicts such as poverty or the consequences of climate change can neither be tackled militarily nor with democratisation programmes.