The discussion on the effectiveness and legitimacy of the French intervention in the Sahel must not conceal the lack of protection faced by the civilian population, who are caught in the crossfire between armed groups, militias and national or international security forces.
“The military response in the Sahel is part of the problem. Last year, military operations in Mali have pushed more than 80,000 people to flee. Engagement in the Sahel must put the protection of people at the heart of the response”, says Maureen Magee, NRC Regional Director.
Given the gravity of the situation, political and military actors must first assume their responsibilities towards the civilian population by guaranteeing respect for International Humanitarian Law to and protect people without discrimination. There is a need to urgently increase the humanitarian response, while also support lasting solutions for the displaced, functioning justice systems and basic social services.
“Mass displacement, more than half a million people since the start of 2019, has contributed to almost a tripling of the number of people in food and nutritional insecurity in the central Sahel “says Mamadou Diop, Regional Director of Action Against Hunger.
“We have no access to water, we have no shelter, no resources. I can’t eat every day. Without humanitarian aid I can’t provide for my family,” said Victorine from Burkina Faso.
Despite massive investments in military interventions in the Sahel, violence increased in 2019. The year ended tragically with a massacre in Arbinda, Burkina Faso on Christmas Eve, which killed 35 civilians, including 31 women.
“It’s clear that a solely military response does not work. We must invest in non-military solutions with and for affected communities, and urgently mobilize to address the exploding humanitarian needs,” said Adama Coulibaly, Oxfam Regional Director.
Due to lack of funding in 2019, humanitarian organisations are struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable people in the Sahel.
Norwegian Refugee Council