Amid the Sahel region’s crises — a continent-spanning web of communal and terrorist insurgencies and eight coups d’etat since 2020 — U.S. and European attention is focused elsewhere: on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s expanding global influence and the Israel-Palestine conflict. But an opportunity to promote stabilization in the Sahel, notably in Mali and Niger, could be U.S. collaboration with Algeria. Algeria shares borders with those violence-stricken states, and also the U.S. desire to help stabilize them and their Sahel neighbors. A first question for any joint U.S-Algerian engagement is whether the two countries’ visions for Sahel stability, particularly in Mali and Niger, are aligned or contradictory.
Three years of coups around Africa’s Sahel region — eight of them in six nations, from Guinea on the Atlantic to Sudan on the Red Sea — leave many African and other policymakers frustrated over how to respond. The Sahel’s crises have uprooted more than 4 million people and could add millions more to our record levels of global human migration as Africa’s population grows and its climate destabilizes. Yet the pattern of coups and other evidence — notably from USIP’s Sahel fieldwork, counter-coup research and bipartisan analysis teams — offer guidelines for effective responses by African, U.S. and international policymakers.
This morning’s coup d’etat in Niger only deepens the pattern of instability across Africa’s Sahel and damages what has been a rare process of fairly steady democracy building in the region. Niger’s democratically elected government has been a valued partner for African and international efforts to stabilize the Sahel against its web of insurgencies, extremist movements and military coups. Kamissa Camara, a former foreign minister of Niger’s neighbor, Mali, now an analyst on the region with USIP, says the coup underlines lessons already evident about how to improve international efforts to build democracy and peace.
Ahead of the Biden administration’s Summit for Democracy, the U.S. Institute of Peace is convening a multi-part conversation about the dynamics driving four of the seven coups and coup attempts since the onset of the pandemic.
In May 2021, USIP created the Bipartisan Senior Study Group for the Sahel comprised of 12 current and former high-level U.S. officials, renowned academics and prominent Africa experts. The senior study group aims to generate new insights into the complex challenges facing the Sahel region, including food security, human rights, security assistance, private sector development and job creation — as well as great power competition. The senior study group will provide original recommendations to the U.S. government and governments in the Sahel region to improve foreign assistance, resolve conflict and support lasting peace.
USIP’s Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) program aims to shape national policies and community approaches to countering violent extremism in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. USIP does this by empowering women-led organizations and building local capacity that fosters collaboration between community-level activists and national-level policymakers.