This article was originally published by the African Center for Strategic Studies on 11 January 2017.
In January 2013, Hamadou Kouffa led Islamist forces from northern Mali south toward Konna and Diabaly, an act that precipitated an African and French intervention eventually driving the militants out of entrenched positions. Two years later, Kouffa reemerged on the international scene at the head of the newly founded Macina Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Macina, FLM). Since January 2015, Kouffa’s group has claimed responsibility for several attacks in central Mali, including assassinations of local political figures and security forces, as well as the destruction of an ‘idolatrous’ mausoleum.
In its goals and methods, FLM resembles other Islamist terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). What makes the FLM different is the attempt to rally nomadic Fulani herdsmen to its cause. Kouffa, a Fulani marabout, communicates to FLM members in the Fulani language, and the name Macina harkens back to a nineteenth-century Fulani state based in central Mali and governed under Islamic law.
Man in Sandstorm, courtesy A. Masood
This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 19 May 2016.
The blueprint for the Great Green Wall is nothing if not ambitious. Quite Canute-like, it would seem.
The aim is to plant a forest of trees about 15km wide, snaking some 7 775km from Senegal on the Atlantic to Djibouti on the Red Sea – crossing another nine Sahelian states on the way – to halt the southward march of the Sahara into the Sahel. This elongated forest would cover about 11 662 500 hectares.
The idea was originally conceived by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and enthusiastically embraced by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. In 2007, the African Union Commission (AUC) took it up as the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). Obasanjo seems to have borrowed the idea from China, yet the Chinese precedent is not entirely encouraging. Its bricks and mortar equivalent failed to keep out the Mongolian hordes from the north in the 13th century. And China’s Great Green Wall – launched in 1978 with the aim of creating a forest of trees 4 500km long – has also not stopped the southward drift of the Gobi and other deserts, despite the planting of about 70 billion trees to date.
Local maize storage barn in Africa.
Northern Nigeria’s grain trade, which supplies almost half of the Sahel’s cereals, has slowed severely, while abnormally high prices of staple grains across the Sahel are causing serious food security concerns in this chronically vulnerable region.
The areas most at risk are southeastern and central Niger, which are highly dependent on Nigerian grain flows, as well as northern Nigeria and northern Benin. Chad is somewhat protected from the dynamic, as it produced a healthy harvest in 2012, says FEWS NET.
World Food Programme (WFP) market analysts report that grain supply is low in many of the main markets across the region, and that fewer traders from Niger and elsewhere are crossing the border to re-supply in Nigeria. Cross-border trade is significantly down in Nigeria’s Maigatari market (near Zinder in Niger), Illela (near Tahoua), Jibya (near Maradi) and Damassack (near Diffa), according to WFP. » More