Jihadi extremist factions take advantage of political instability in Africa

With each coup in Africa, the image of the state is shaken and its ability to control is further diminished than before. Hence, the coup in Burkina Faso reinforces the image of political instability in the west of the continent and serves the interests of the jihadist groups that sow chaos.

Burkina experienced two coups in nine months, as Mali did in 2020 and then in 2021. Guinea changed regimes in 2021 and Benin experienced a failed coup the year before. As for the Chadian president, assassinated in 2020 by the rebels, he was replaced by his son without any respect for constitutional principles.

It is a major storm sweeping the region, with jihadist groups strengthening, including the Islamic State in the Sahel and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islam and Muslim Support Group.

In this sense, Yvan Guishawa, an expert at the University of Kent in Brussels, said after the coup in Burkina Faso that “the biggest winners are neither the Russians nor the French, but the Support Group for Islam and Muslims and the Islamic State in the Sahel,” describing it as a “disaster.”

This is while insecurity is often the main argument of coup plotters and the arrival of a strong man can win the support of part of public opinion.

But the pretext for maintaining security is to throw dust in El Ayoun, according to Jalil Lounas, a researcher at Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University, who says the coup “destabilizes the structure of the army and divides the military between supporters and opponents.” This means instability, division and purges”.

– Management and effectiveness problems –

Furthermore, African armies are not models of effectiveness or successful management. Alain Antel, a Mali specialist at the French Institute of International Relations, points to Burkina Faso gendarmes who were killed by jihadists in late 2021 after supplies stopped reaching them. “They had to hunt deer in the bush to eat,” he says. You can’t fight tough opponents while dealing with this kind of logistical problem.”

The outgoing military council has not corrected the situation and there is no guarantee that the new council will achieve better results. “The myth of the military’s visionary problem solver is rarely realized,” he told AFP. In particular, he explains, the military “is often less equipped than the civilians it replaces to understand the non-security aspects” of the crisis.

Furthermore, it is the very idea of ​​the State that vibrates every time the government changes; The State accused of enriching the capital’s elites and of abandoning the vast desert areas where jihadist groups predominate, imposing its security and judicial alternatives.

In a statement issued this week, the Nusrat al-Islam group ridiculed the Ouagadougou coup, saying: “Let the tyrants know that repeated coups will not benefit them,” and advised them to implement “Sharia.”

Thus, the jihadist discourse emerges in the face of the impotence of the states, as the Mauritanian author and director Limin Ould Salem affirms, emphasizing that “They say: there is no democracy, no state, no constitution”, speaking of “a discourse that delegitimizes the institutions of the Condition”.

In fact, the response to jihadists tends to be at the local level rather than at the state level. In Niger, “they depend on managing the situation locally…and this cannot be sustained,” says Jalil Lounas. “They reach a ceasefire, for example, in one town and not in another.”

the pretext of france

For his part, Alain Antill points to the trap into which “certain peoples fall, after being threatened by the Nusrat al-Islam group, of signing a non-aggression pact that turns them, in the eyes of the government and its army, into accomplices with the jihadists.

In this maelstrom that undermines what remains of the nation-state in favor of tribal, ethnic, clan and sectarian loyalties, cooperation between states breaks down and border areas become more open to attack by armed groups.

By leaving the G5 Sahel, with Mauritania, Chad, Burkina and Niger, Mali denies itself the right to hunt down the jihadists it pursues once they cross the border.

In front of the United Nations General Assembly, its Prime Minister, Colonel Abdullah Maiga, delivered a forceful speech to his neighbors. Even Bamako detained soldiers from the Sahel for several days. Antel said that Bamako “runs the risk of damaging all forms of cooperation, including in the field of security.”

Meanwhile, France, the former colonial power, is blamed in West Africa for rapprochement with new foreign partners, led by Russia.

If Paris’s record is controversial, accusing it of all evil makes no sense, says the New York-based Soufan Center for Security Research. “France is using an excuse to justify the growing power of jihadists.” But the Russian solution offers no guarantees.

Michael Shurkin, an American historian specializing in the French military, points to “conspiracy theories that the French are, in fact, arming the jihadis. … These theories … prevent neighbors from understanding their responsibility and finding their own solutions, ”he explains in an interview with Atlántico.