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The Crisis In The Sahel: From Domestic Uprisings To Territorial Destabilization

The violence and instability in the region of Mali and its neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger which make up the Sahel region has been persistent since January 2012. Across Sahel, this conflict has turned into a communal and extremist rebellion which was initially witnessed in Northern Mali as a separatist rebellion.

This situation has become worse over the past nine years because the regional as well as the international retort to this conflict has failed significantly to blunt the insecurity which is being escalated in this humanitarian crisis. The violence has unabatedly persisted in the Sahel and the number of fatalities which are reported have surpassed in each country of the region since 2019.

Due to the continuing violence, there has been a surge in the refugees and internally displaced population as well. Around 5 million people have faced food insecurity in the region even though the weather trend in the region is quite favorable for livestock and agriculture. [1]

The crisis in Sahel has been focus as a security crisis but it is in fact one of the biggest humanitarian crisis that has occurred in the world. Due to the armed rebellion that take place in the region, majority of the population of this region is fleeing the area and has become refugees. There is extreme poverty in this region and basic necessities are not available to the people of this area.

Water has also become scarce in this region due to which a lot of health issues are being faced by the people because there is also lack of major sanitation among the people as their living conditions are also deteriorating due to their status of refugees. There has also been drastic climate change in this region which has hindered the cultivation process due to shrinking of cultivable patches of land which further led to food shortage on the region. [2]

The food shortage is severe in the Sahel region and the resilience capacity of people is very low. They do not even have enough capital to purchase things of basic necessity and the farmers even have to sell their cattle to buy seeds and fertilizers for their crops. The poverty is such that the people are unable to get out of their debts and the families have to skip their meals for meeting their basic needs.

There is exponential rise in price of foodstuff and the banks have been non-operational which has further impacted the paying capacity of the people. the healthcare as well education of the region has also been sternly impacted and it is majorly the women who have to suffer due to the same because the martality rate is quite high as well which also is dangerous for expecting mothers because due to lack of proper healthcare the deaths among pregnant women are quite high and due to the presence of terrorist groups in the region, the female students often have to drop out of their schools as a result of lack of safety for them.

The children are suffering from malnutrition which is life threatening. The funding for the crisis is also drying up due to which the humanitarian crisis of Sahel has reached its breaking point. [3]

There has been a history of rebellions in the Sahel region since it has gained independence and therefore, the same has led to the lack of economic development in the region which is the root cause of the deterioration of the living conditions in the region. There has been increase in the number of armed groups in the region which has led to insecurity, instability and violence which further makes the population of the region live in perils of their armed group further leading to a lack of sense of security among them.

Due to such situation, there has been escalation in the lawlessness and the situation has been intensified due to upsurge in arms circulation and trafficking of contrabands as well as humans. The authority severely lacks in exercising its capacity and it is a constant power struggle. Initially, the power struggle was for the lack of representation and secular ideology but due to the presence of Islamic terrorist groups, it has been radicalized Islamic movement. [4]

The existence of the states in the Sahel Region are at a constant threat due to the humanitarian crisis as well as the presence of these radical Islamic terrorist groups. The credibility of the government of these nations is highly questionable because the top most leaders and the high ranking officers of these nations have in past aided these terror groups in successfully conducting their illegal activities under their protection and it is due to this lack of competence of the government that these groups were provided with a chance for rooting themselves within the system of the region and extending their influence. [5]

What Are Humanitarian Rights Under International Law And Why Are They Significant?

There are five foundational principles for human rights and the fundamental one is human dignity. Others include the universality and interdependence of rights, equality and non-discrimination, meaningful participation as well as accountability and right to an effective remedy.[6] The human rights are referred in the UN Charter in its Preamble and a number of its Articles.

The objectives of the UN include the promotion and encouragement of the human rights which would be done without any form of distinction bases on race, religion, language or sex.[7] The General Assembly of UN has the power and function to assist in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedom for all.[8]

It is the guiding principle of the United Nation. The Human Rights were brought into the realm of International law by UDHR. According to the Charter of UN, it is the purpose of the UN for universal respect in observation of the human rights which would be done without discrimination in any form[9] and the pledge for the same is taken by the members of the General Assembly[10]. The Charter also has provision for the Economic and Social Council and the same is set up for the promotion of human rights [11]

There have been a number of subsidiary organs which have been set up by the UN General Assembly for the promotion of the human rights and this is because these rights are very crucial and significant human entitlements which have been enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There are several treaties which have also been made for their promotion around the globe. Human rights are important because they ensure that basic needs of the people are met which include access to proper healthcare, clean drinking water, food, shelter and clean clothes and by doing this, a baseline is set for everyone's level of dignity.

These rights are also significant for the protection of people from any kind of abuse and this goes especially for those who are most vulnerable to such kind of abuse which may occur due to any disability or gender, religion. By providing and making the people of a nation aware of their human rights, it encourages them to stand up against any form of societal corruption and also encourages their freedom to speech and expression.

Access to equal opportunity for work, healthy environment as well as access to education is also provided under the human rights. A universal standard is set for the government of all the nations for holding it accountable in case there is any violation of their rights. [12]

In 1993, when the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted, the universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated nature of human rights was emphasized and the same was seen as a priority of the United nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the commanding amplification of the human rights under The Charter of UN.

Initially when the Charter was adopted, the focus was on the individual rights of the people but with passage of time, the focus has now been shifted towards the collective rights of group of people who are minorities of are vulnerable to any form of discrimination which could lead to the violation of their human rights. Prohibition of genocide is also within the system of the UN which has been adopted for the promotion of collective rights. UN also promotes the principle of self-determination as a human right. [13]

The Human Rights Council which was the successor of the Commission of Human Rights has been created by the General Assembly of UN. The objective of this Council is the equal treatment of all the nations in the Human Rights with equal coverage. An expert body was also created by the UN named the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1976 entered into force by adoption of UNGA Resolution 2200 a (XXI) and it promotes a number of rights including self-determination, Right to Work and Education, right to adequate standard of living and also right to social security.

This council also upholds the promotion of inherent dignity of human being[14] Other specific committees which have been set up by the Un for the promotion of human rights include The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Racial Discrimination, for Committee against torture, Rights of Children, protections for Migrant workers, Rights of people with disabilities as well as committee on enforced disappearances.

Evolution Of International Cooperation For Security And Response To Security Threats In The Sahel

There have been a number of bilateral as well as multilateral and even national and international initiatives which have been introduced for the stabilizing the Sahel as its primary intent even though the results of these initiatives remain narrow so far.

The first initiative that took place was the formation of Joint Military Staff Committee (CEMOC) which was based in Southern Algeria and this was an initiative undertaken by Algeria for the cross-border operation as well as joint military operation in the countries in Sahel region but only post seven months this was replaced with Fusion and Liaison Office whose task was the sharing of information of intelligence among the eight Sahel region countries but these two organs have become redundant due to the corrupt practices of the leaders of the nations which has created a mistrust among the nations.

After this another initiative was brought into place that was the Community of Sahel-Saharan States which was led by Libya and Morocco but this did not include Algeria. A new agreement which included the Peace and Security Council was also signed in 2013 but due to the Algeria-Morocco rivalry, there have been issues in the smooth functioning of these initiatives undertaken by the nations.[15]

The Nouakchott Process was led by African Union and a number of Sahel countries were included in it which had identical security issues. The functions of the process included the sharing of intelligence information for the tackling of issue of terrorism and criminal and confidence building among nations was also one of its objectives.

But with time the it seems that the process stalled post 2015 which led to a loss of momentum. Post the 9/11 incident in US, Tras-Saharan Counter Terrorism was initiated by the US for extending a helping hand to the Sahel countries for their security. Malian crisis has been one of the principal factors for the crisis in Sahel and to tackle the same, in 2015 a peace deal was signed after a prolonged process of dialogue and negotiations and this was the Bamako Agreement which came out of the Algiers Process but the implementation of this has been extremely slow which therefore lead to quite unsuccessful outcomes. [16]

The Multi-National Joint Task Force Against Boko Haram (MNJTF) which was basically established in 1994 was reinstated by the Lake Chad Basin Commission member states for their fight against the Boko Haram as well as other terrorist groups for ensuring peace in the Sahel area. The force was tasked with the degradation of the areas occupied by the Boko Haram group and for recovering these territories under them but despite this the attacks by this groups have continued till date. It is the principle mandate of this task force for creation of peaceful, save and secure surroundings in the territories occupied by the terrorist group and reduce the violence and destruction caused by them. [17]

These mandates may require to be fulfilled by doing activities such as patrolling, search and seizure of illegal contrabands, military operations. Control the transferring of any weapons or ammunitions and also free any abducted persons. These are to be fulfilled by staying within the framework of international human rights and humanitarian laws and there should be total obedience to the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policies.

The African Union (AU) looks over the activities of this Joint Force since it has been commissioned by the same. The initial phase of the work of the MNJTF was targeting the operations of the Boko Haram by destroying their infrastructures which include their training camps, factories producing their illegal supplies of weapons or drugs and also freeing their hostages. The establishment of MNJTF was outside the Peace Support Operations normative framework but it is totally a military operations group with the aim of defeating the Boko Haram.[18]

For coordination of the security related development strategies of the Sahel nations, in 2015 G-5 Sahel was initiated. Initially, it was a group which was formulated for the economic advancement of the region and was also formed for introducing a common airline named Air Sahel by t mostly the operating of the group was based upon the military and security of the Sahel region which can be inferred in the sense that the development in this region is still a far-reaching vision but despite this there have been a few achievements of the G-5 Sahel including the stabilizing of the government, formulation of new infrastructure including schools and healthcare but it is still quite early to assess if the stabilizing in the Sahel is due to the efforts of the G-5 force. [19]

Combatting the criminal and the terrorist activities in the Sahel region as well as contributing towards the economic and social welfare in the area is the principle aim of the G-5 Sahel along with other objectives such as the restoration of the authority of the state and also returning of the refugees and the internally displaced persons. Facilitation of humanitarian operations is one of the major objectives of the group and so is the promoting developmental activities and contributing towards them. Till date, the activities which have been performed by the group include troop mobilization, appointment of staff and headquarters refurbishing.

The main motivation of the members of this alliance is for individual and collective challenges faced for security. The G5 is very detached from the structure of AU and APSA. There are various external actors who play a major role in the working of G5 especially France who is a primary financial as well as diplomatic backer of the G5 and there is huge dominance of France in the operations of the G5. France was the nation that pushed for a blanket solution for the Sahel region in the Security Council and it used its influence in the UN for assessing the financial contribution from the same. G5- Force has the approvals from both the Security Council as well as the African Union but there are still multiple challenges which need to be addressed by the same. [20]

The UN also works towards the peacebuilding in the area and for the same UN Police has been deployed in the area as a response to the terrorist in the region but the operations of UN are under a constant threat due to the presence of these Islamic terrorist groups in the region which renders the working of the UN Peacebuilding missions. There have been various attacks on the UN troops which impacts the troops willingness to work in the negative sense because of the constant threats to their lives and this in turn impacts the recruitment process by the UN for the peacebuilding troops.

The financial backing of the UN Peacebuilding in Sahel has been done maximum by USA which gives them an upper hand in these operations. These peace missions by UN are authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which gives Security Council the authority for deploying of troops in the nations where there are issues of peace and security. There are three primary principles in the Charter of UN which are necessary for carrying out any peacebuilding operations in a nation which are parties' consent (the government), use of force only for self-defense and impartiality.

These three core ideas need to be upheld while operations are carried out by UN. [21] For the force and equipment that are required by the UN in carrying out these missions, these is some reliance upon the African Union as well as sub-organisation like ECOWAS. The training to these combat forces is provided by the United Nations. There is also a major role of United Nations in establishment of peace, public safety as well as justice in Sahel region and for the same a number of steps were taken which include adoption of new principles of UN, deploying armed police forces, expanding the mandate of the Security Council and also experts of law and prison were hired. [22]

For tackling the issues of economic, social as well as political insecurity faced by the Sahel countries, the EU, France and Germany formed an Alliance in 2017 named the Sahel Alliance which was forthwith joined by the World Bank, UN Development Programme and African Development Bank and later as well many European nations became its members. There are six major targets of this alliance named the education and employment of youth, rural and agricultural development along with providing food security, internal security, decentralization, energy and climate and governance.

The Sahel Alliance was formulated with the intent of promoting sustainable development along with peace in Sahel. But there has been low development due to organizational failures as well as lack of communication between the members of the alliance which has led to unproductive outcomes. There has been dominance of France in the alliance which has caused tensions between the states.[23]

Suggestions For Providing Adequate Protection To Population Of Sahel Region

For improvement of the humanitarian as well as the security crisis in Sahel, there are a number of suggestions which could be imposed at various levels by varying authorities. The first could be to have a permission for dialogue between the armed/terrorist groups and the humanitarians as this would lead to an improvement in the access since the present situation does not permit the same as according to the law and donor policies, dialogue with terrorist or the armed groups is a way of supporting them.

There are very slim chances that for resolving this humanitarian, political, security or the economic crisis can be done without this dialogue since they are the root cause for all these issues. An approach must be found by the international donors for ensuring that these critical conversation as well as life-saving aid that has been made possible by them isn't being prevented by such laws and policies even though they are well-meaning.[24]

There should be support for a situation-specific harmonization between the security services and humanitarians and this should be done for protecting the humanitarians and relief workers from any violence or life threats. For this, the responsibilities of the security actors and aid workers should be made flexible and arrangements should be localized.

This is also imperative because some of the actors are unable to make any distinction between the armed groups and aid organizations which therefore makes it an even more urgent reform to adopt. It is a must that the humanitarians and aid workers are approached by the Sahelian governments and the security forces with the aim of listening to their needs so that aid is provided to maximum number of people.

Restraint should be placed on carrying out any military operations without coordination with the humanitarians because if this isn't done then distinction between the relief operations and military operations is undermined. The role of MINUSMA should be separated from that of the operations of the United Nations. [25]

There should be more engagement, elevation and defending of the media coverage because the coverage of the humanitarian who carry out mission in the area is far too little which does not give it the limelight that is required for grabbing the attention of the people around the globe and it even causes issues for people in the region to understand what is the role of these humanitarians in their region.

It has become increasingly difficult for the humanitarians to explain their actions since there is lack of data, the dynamics are poorly understood, and the environment for media is increasingly oppressive. There should be expansion of support from the local radio and UN should back these expansions.

It should also condemn situations where the local government detains journalists for their work or participating in peaceful protests. There should be effective communication between all the actors involved in achievement of peace which would led to productive outcomes since the goal pf each of these groups is the same i.e. bringing peace and averting the crisis in the region.

There is also an issue because of the increased engagement of the international players which has led to not led to any advances of the objectives of the government. Even though involvement of international players has made lot of positive progress in the region but the present partnership approach has been unsuccessful for yielding any substantial progress because the escalating number of forums and envoys has become a interference at best and inefficacious at worst.
  There needs to be an agreement of the international players as well as Sahelian countries on concrete goals and a common path towards progress otherwise the involvement of diplomats and soldiers is immaterial.

There is also a need of governance focused approach. There needs to be a rebalancing of present counter terrorism campaigns by the international players with strengthened approach towards public trust, governance and democratization and for the same development should be done in building out as well as defining the political dimensions of the Sahel region nations which could be outlined in the Summits of the African Union or the G5 Sahel. Programmes should be there for introduction of accountability in the governance, training for civic education and there should be an introduction of a provision for supporting the civil society along with development of faith-based institutions as all these could lead to engagement in the deeper sense.

The focus should be shifted towards tackling the food insecurity, economic disintegration and prioritize the violence reduction in the region. International players should work with the local leaders of Sahelian nations in explore options such as increasing the funding and should also find ways for the protection of civilian population.[26]

Conclusion
The humanitarian and security crisis in Sahel has continued since past so many years due to the weak foundations of their democracies as the corruption in these nations have increased since their independence. Their instability of the governments in the Sahelian nations has led to terrorist groups creating havoc in the region with their violence which has created a sense of insecurity and mistrust among the population of the region.

The people in the area are fleeing and becoming refugees to escape the worsening conditions of the area because they do not have access to even basic necessities and they have to love in constant threat to their lives. The condition for women and children is worse.

As a response to the crisis, there is an immediate need for strengthening the human rights along with rule of law in the Sahel basic political and civil rights should be implemented and the cultural, social and economic rights of the people need recognition and focus should be reinstating of democracy as well as pushing the armed and terrorist groups out of the region. Ample attention should be given to women, children and human rights protection and international assistance should be provided at maximum.

The education, healthcare infrastructure should be improved and basic necessities such as food, shelter, clean drinking water should be made available to the people of the region.

For fighting with the terrorist groups in the region, attention should be there on dismantling their funding structures and also finding productive ways to make sure that weapons are not being produced or supplied to them. Their illicit activities of these terrorist groups should be discouraged at maximum level and there should be a proper direction in which the peacebuilding activities of the UN and other international players along with the local authority work as they all should work towards achieving the similar goal in the same manner.

There is a need for a new peace deal in the region and inputs should be taken from all the stakeholders and this could be done with the assistance of international peace groups and United Nations instead of involving any particular nation in this process.

A single approach should be adopted and then too there is a long way to go in totally averting this crisis in Sahel. A concrete plan should be formulated and adopted by all instead of having varying approached in tackling the situation. If there is consistency and team work then the common goal of peace and security can be achieved at the earliest. Interest of all the stakeholders should be kept in mind by the international players and not just that of their own.

Bibliography
  1. Charter of the United Nations
  2. International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy
  3. Article 6-15 of The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  4. Malcolm n Shaw's, "International Law" (Cambridge University Press 6th Edn 2008)
  5. Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris's, "Rethinking Crisis Responses in the Sahel" (December 2020) Center for Strategic and International Studies
  6. Humanitarian Crisis in the Sahel, (November 13, 2017) International Committee of the Red Cross
  7. Peter Gubbels, "The Crisis in the Sahel: A new drumbeat for the Sahel" (Groundswell International, The Humanitarian Practice Network Sept 2012)
  8. Virgine Baudais, Amal Bourhrous and Dylan O'Driscoll's, "The Crisis in the Sahel: From Domestic Rebellions to Regional Destabilization" (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2021)
  9. Lacher W's, "Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Washington DC, September 2012
  10. Pogge T's, "The International Significance of Human Rights" (The Journal of Ethics, 2000)
  11. Baudais, Virginie, Amal Bourhrous, and Dylan O'Driscoll. Conflict Mediation and Peacebuilding in the Sahel: The Role of Maghreb Countries in an African Framework. (Report. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2021)
  12. Olawale Ismail and Alagaw Ababu Kifle, New Collective Security Arrangements in the Sahel: A Comparative Study of the MNJTF and G-5 Sahel (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2018)
  13. John Campbell, Mixed Results in Evaluation of Multinational Effort Against Boko Haram (Council on Foreign Relations) July 16, 2020
  14. UN, (2017), Report of the Secretary- General on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel, S/2017/869
  15. Robert M Perito, UN Peacekeeping in the Sahel: Overcoming New Challenges, United States Institute of Peace March 2015
  16. United Nations Development Programme "Fact Sheet: Global Focal Point of police, Justice and Corrections" (December 7 2012)
  17. Andrew Lebovich, "Disorder From Chaos: Why Europeans Fail to Promote Stability in the Sahel", (August 2020) European Council on Foreign Relations
  18. Kyle Murphy, Security Fragmentation Hinders Humanitarian Response in the Sahel (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2020)
Footer:
  1. Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris's, "Rethinking Crisis Responses in the Sahel" (December 2020) Center for Strategic and International Studies
  2. "Humanitarian Crisis in the Sahel", (November 13, 2017) International Committee of the Red Cross
  3. Peter Gubbels, "The Crisis in the Sahel: A new drumbeat for the Sahel" (Groundswell International, The Humanitarian Practice Network Sept 2012)
  4. Virgine Baudais, Amal Bourhrous and Dylan O'Driscoll's, "The Crisis in the Sahel: From Domestic Rebellions to Regional Destabilization" (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2021)
  5. Lacher W's, "Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Washington DC, September 2012
  6. International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy
  7. Article 1 of The Charter of the United Nations
  8. Article 13 of The Charter of the United Nations
  9. Article 55 of the Charter of the United Nations
  10. Article 56 of the Charter of the United Nations
  11. Article 68 of the Charter of The United Nations
  12. Pogge T's, "The International Significance of Human Rights" (The Journal of Ethics, 2000)
  13. Malcolm n Shaw's, "International Law" (Cambridge University Press 6th Edn 2008)
  14. Article 6-15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  15. Baudais, Virginie, Amal Bourhrous, and Dylan O'Driscoll. Conflict Mediation and Peacebuilding in the Sahel: The Role of Maghreb Countries in an African Framework. (Report. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2021)
  16. Olawale Ismail and Alagaw Ababu Kifle, New Collective Security Arrangements in the Sahel: A Comparative Study of the MNJTF and G-5 Sahel (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2018)
  17. John Campbell, Mixed Results in Evaluation of Multinational Effort Against Boko Haram (Council on Foreign Relations) July 16, 2020
  18. Ibid
  19. Olawale Ismail and Alagaw Ababu Kifle, New Collective Security Arrangements in the Sahel: A Comparative Study of the MNJTF and G-5 Sahel (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2018
  20. UN, (2017), Report of the Secretary- General on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel, S/2017/869
  21. Robert M Perito, UN Peacekeeping in the Sahel: Overcoming New Challenges, United States Institute of Peace March 2015
  22. United Nations Development Programme "Fact Sheet: Global Focal Point of police, Justice and Corrections" (December 7 2012)
  23. Andrew Lebovich, "Disorder From Chaos: Why Europeans Fail to Promote Stability in the Sahel", (August 2020) European Council on Foreign Relations
  24. Kyle Murphy, Security Fragmentation Hinders Humanitarian Response in the Sahel (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2020)
  25. Ibid
  26. Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris, Rethinking Crisis Responses in The Sahel (Stratrgic and International Studies, December 2020)

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