By Martin Igwe, Coordinator Waansa Nigeria Center for Media and Advocacy
The Sahel regions are those areas of Africa separating the Sahara desert to the north and tropical savanna. Because it was France important territories. it is also called French territories. Senegal, Southern Mauritania. Central Mali, Northern Burkina Faso, Southern Algeria part of Northern Nigeria Central Sudan constitute what is today Sahel region.
A youthful populated territory mainly farmers has become one of the volatile African regions due to porous borders and largely unregulated cross border activities. Terrorist groups have also expanded their activities in recent years. Changes in climatic conditions have made the herdsmen move across Sahel to south of savanna, despite of the fact that they were welcomed by famers as the cattle and goats fertilize depleted lands. Violence always erupts due to quest for ownership of scarce natural resources.
The Sahel region borders now habours enterprising evil merchant, extremist and criminal networks trafficking in toxic ideologies, weapons and drugs. Politically, rural people in that region have become disgruntled with what they call corrupt and predator internationally imposed economic model that has no priority for the concern of pastorals.
Their government are being accused of exploiting the conflict to their benefit as conflicting parties pay government, royalties. Women also pay for collecting herders grazing livestock’s. The pastorals feel that the government also sides farmers hence joining jihadist group who guarantee them of no tax to traditional leaders and government. This development has destroyed trade activities, worsened unemployment. This negative indices has affected African development., Mitigating climate changes impact on Sahel region by planting trees across is not enough. With the coming of new leadership in Mali, decisions capable of addressing cross border traffic of natural resources in exchange with arms, must be initiated to stop this decades old trade which has created a transnational criminal economy which armed groups and their pocket of collaborators explore to escalate conflict.
African Union, ECOWAS need to constitute a peace and reconciliation panel made up of customary chief, religious leaders, public spirited men and women to monitor the enactment of laws capable of uniting the pastorals and farmers. The peace panel must hold not only the state as the only framework for action in peace building and conflict resolution in Sahel region.
European Union and other philanthropist who have been making quantum contributions to Sahel region must as a matter of urgency put their resources into locally owned initiatives, informal economic sector development initiatives with long term peace building components. African economy has suffered enough from criminal violence in border lands making life hell for locals and having disastrous effects to political instability and economic prospect of the continent. With the lesson of covid 19.which makes the world unsafe when a particular side is not safe is enough reason to make the world rise up an save the Sahel region. A stitch in time saves Nine!