The Sahel

Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border

Islamist fighters in Mali. (Photo: Magharebia)

The Sahel has seen the most rapid growth in violent extremist activity of any region in Africa over the past 2 years. The region is also a nexus of criminal networks and illicit trafficking and has experienced a rise in farmer-herder violence. The Sahel, moreover, has the fastest population growth rate on the continent, despite being among the poorest and facing some of the most fragile environmental conditions. Consequently, migrants from the Sahel constitute a significant share of those trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. All the while, emerging democratic institutions are trying to gain traction in the region. Here is a selection of Africa Center work on the region.


Islamic State in the Greater Sahara Expanding Its Threat and Reach in the Sahel

December 18, 2020

Violence linked to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) more than doubled in the past year. Concentrated along the Burkina Faso-Niger-Mali border areas, ISGS events target civilians nearly half the time.

Africa Security Brief No. 38

The Puzzle of JNIM and Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel

By Daniel Eizenga and Wendy Williams

December 1, 2020

Composed of distinct operational entities, the militant Islamist group coalition Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen serves the role of obscuring the operations of its component parts in the Sahel, thereby inhibiting a more robust response.


How Violent Extremist Groups Exploit Intercommunal Conflicts in the Sahel

By Laurence-Aïda Ammour

February 26, 2020

Rising violence by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel is straining intercommunal tensions, threatening the foundations of social cohesion in the region.

* Projected
Data source: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)

Africa Security Brief

Responding to the Rise in Violent Extremism in the Sahel

By Pauline Le Roux

December 3, 2019

Reversing the escalating violence of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel will require an enhanced security presence coupled with more sustained outreach to local communities.


Strategies for Peace and Security in the Sahel

September 27, 2019

The Sahel is the African region that has seen the most rapid growth in violent extremist activity over the past 2 years. Ambassadors of the G-5 Sahel countries and leading experts examine the drivers and responses to the region’s security challenges.


Ansaroul Islam: The Rise and Decline of a Militant Islamist Group in the Sahel

By Pauline Le Roux

July 29, 2019

Burkina Faso’s first militant Islamist group, Ansaroul Islam, has faced setbacks, pointing to the weaknesses of violent extremist organizations lacking deep local support and facing sustained pressure.


Exploiting Borders in the Sahel: The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara

By Pauline Le Roux

June 10, 2019

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has pursued breadth rather than depth of engagement in its rapid rise along the Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso borders.

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi.

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara leader Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. (Image: screen capture)


Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat: The Macina Liberation Front

By Pauline Le Roux

February 22, 2019

The Macina Liberation Front has opportunistically played on perceptions of ethnic, economic, religious, and political marginalization to become one of the most active militant Islamist groups in Mali.


EU Security Strategy in Sahel Focused on Security-Development Nexus

March 7, 2019

EU Special Representative to the Sahel Angel Losada Fernandez discusses Europe’s security strategy in the region, which focuses on integrating development, security, and governance in coordination with African actors on the ground, in this interview with the Africa Center.

Map of Security Responses in the Sahel

Sources: United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), European External Action Service (EEAS), G5 Sahel Secretariat, French Ministry for the Armed Forces.


A Review of Major Regional Security Efforts in the Sahel

March 4, 2019

Increased attacks from militant Islamist groups in the Sahel coupled with cross-border challenges such as trafficking, migration, and displacement have prompted a series of regional and international security responses.


The Complex and Growing Threat of Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel

February 15, 2019

The escalation of violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel reflects an array of diverse actors operating within distinct geographic concentrations.


Progress and Setbacks in the Fight against African Militant Islamist Groups in 2018

January 25, 2019

Declines in violent activity linked to Boko Haram and al Shabaab are balanced by increases in the Sahel, generating a mixed picture of the challenge posed by militant Islamist groups in Africa.


Militant Islamist Group Activity in the Sahel Rises

October 29, 2018

Expansion of violent events linked to an array of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel highlights the growing scope of security challenges facing this region.


The G5 Sahel Joint Force Gains Traction

February 9, 2018

The G5 Sahel is ramping up its joint security force in order to address the growing threat posed by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel. The Force is emerging as a focal point for transnational security efforts in the region.

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Africa Center Experts