Monitoring of Regional Stability in the Sahel Region and in West Africa January to March 2013

This quarterly monitoring is part of a 3 years project (2011-2013) on “Improving human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in eight countries in West and Central Africa” funded by the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 

It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus this quarter on Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It examines in particular issues related to regional tensions, 
terrorism and cross-border trafficking, production and transfer of arms and cooperation mechanisms in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.


EUTM Mali: une mission déployée dans l’urgence dans un contexte de conflit ouvert

Le Mali et sa région (Source: Bérangère Rouppert- Bamako, mars  2013)

La nouvelle déroute de l’armée malienne face à l’offensive des groupes islamistes en janvier 2013, à laquelle l’Opération française Serval a répondu, a fortement bousculé la mise en place de la mission européenne de formation des forces armées maliennes. Grâce au travail politique et diplomatique accompli à marche forcée au sein des institutions européennes à Bruxelles, la mission a pu être déployée dès février sur le sol malien.

Les capacités d’adaptation des formateurs d’EUTM Mali ont permis de résoudre certains obstacles logistiques, financiers et socio-culturels, cependant des défis de taille restent à venir. Cette Note d’Analyse est le résultat de deux missions complémentaires, réalisées à Bruxelles et à Bamako.

Le rôle de l'Union européenne dans l'Arctique : quelle influence face aux tensions naissantes ?

Le réchauffement climatique a certes des conséquences environnementales mais également des répercussions politiques. L’Arctique, autrefois frontière nordique de l'humanité, s’ouvre désormais  géopolitiquement. Cette ouverture provoque de la part des États intéressés un regain d'intérêt pour les opportunités économiques de la région, qui se manifeste par un accroissement des tensions politiques et juridiques.

Dans ce contexte, l'Union européenne possède plusieurs intérêts économiques importants dans cette partie du globe. Mais pour les défendre au mieux, elle se doit de chercher à résoudre les litiges légaux qui en freinent la poursuite. La présente contribution cherche donc à analyser la capacité de l'UE à peser sur la résolution des différends juridiques dans l'Arctique.

Defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina: between democratization and political deadlock

Soldats de l'armée bosnienne. Source : Wikimedia Commons

Bosnia and Herzegovina is still struggling with its institutional problems inherited from the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, its political leaders being unable to undertake the necessary reforms. However, previous reforms in the field of defence have been successfully carried out by Bosnian leaders. They were able to unify three previously conflicted armies, drastically reduce the amount of troops and make the whole sector more transparent. 

A retrospective overview of this reform unveils the conditions of this success and the way reforms should be engaged in the future. Indeed, the sector of Defence still faces significant issues and remains subject to political disputes. This is illustrated by questions such as integration to NATO, the destruction of surplus armament and the distribution of military assets inherited from the Yugoslav Federation. 

Mali: the announcement of the death of jihadist leaders should not overshadow the difficulties on the front

Soldats français de l’opération Serval, après la reprise de Tombouctou. Source : Ministère de la Défense, Médiathèque,

The second stage of the French military intervention in Mali, after the recovery of northern Mali in four weeks, is to secure the liberated territories and to hunt down jihadist groups. The announcement of the presumed death of two important jihadist leaders  Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar  is good news for the morale of the French politicians, especially now, when fears of getting stuck in a quagmire are growing. But throughout February, deadly skirmishes conducted by jihadist groups in Gao and northeastern Mali demonstrated their enduring capability to harm. France is probably condemned to remain a long time in Mali. 

A decade of military craving Military expenditure in the Middle East and North Africa

Blindé M1A2S destiné à l'Arabie Saoudite. Stand de General Dynamics Land Systems, IDEX-2013 (International Defence Exhibition and Conference, Abu Dhabi, EAU)

The past decade has been characterised by a process of global militarisation on which the economic and financial crisis seem to have had little or no impact on, especially in southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. By drawing up the balance sheet of military expenses in the region, this paper aims at providing a better understanding of the massive defence-related investments made by MENA countries. Particularly, it highlights the military potential generated by oil income and focuses on the two countries with the highest military expenses in the MENA region: Algeria and Saudi Arabia. 

Governance, armed rebellions and lack of security in CAR, Understanding Central African crises (2003-2013)

Crédit: Pierre Holtz (OCHA)

The history of Central African Republic merges with military regimes that have left their mark on this country in the heart of Africa. In December 2012, the Seleka rebellion occupied the northern half of the country, routing the regular army. The success of this offensive spurs us to examine the causes of socio-political instability in the country and to identify some perspectives brought by the Libreville Agreement of 13th January 2013. 


Water, conflicts, and cooperation - Water management in West Africa: Risks and opportunities

West Africa has not been home to any « water wars » throughout the last decades. Yet, a lack of war does not equate to a lack of conflicts: today, West Africa is experiencing a growing scarcity in water resources that gives way to frictions among governments, between those governments and their population, and among users within the states. As an international security issue, water is now the subject of various tensions, but also of several multilateral forums, such as the basin organizations. Conflict and cooperation can also be simultaneously observed at a domestic level, where sponsors of an efficiency-based water governance compete against rights-based approaches. This paper aims to provide an overview of the conflict and cooperation nexus behind water governance in contemporary West Africa.

Monitoring of regional stability in the Sahel region in West Africa Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Sénégal (October to December 2012)

This quarterly monitoring is part of a 3 years project (2011-2013) on “improving human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in eight countries in West and Central Africa” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal, and other countries of the region depending on the news. It examines in particular issues related to regional tensions, terrorism and cross-border trafficking production and transfer of arms and cooperation mechanisms in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.

The surprising consensus on the French intervention in Mali

Discours de Gérard Araud, représentant permanent de la France auprès des Nations unies le 14 janvier 2013

Many have been surprised by the French operation "Serval" in Mali and for good reasons: there was no indication of such a turn of events after a long year of multilateral negotiations characterized by a diplomatic and military cautiousness which were made extremely sacred. Yet few comments are currently questioning the French decision. On the contrary, it is rather well received by international actors who were eager to show their support to the French government. This paper attempts to shed light on issues that might be raised in the coming days or weeks. 


Maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea: an overview

Maritime insecurity is confirmed as one of the persistent threats to the stability of States bordering the Gulf of Guinea. Despite a growing awareness and the political will to deal with the threat, the rapid increase of piracy has caught short several countries in the region. The lack of a common and relatively comprehensive mechanism to monitor and tackle the piracy issue, limits the scope of the initiatives taken by some states, which do not cover the whole of the Gulf of Guinea. A long-term strategy involves the pooling of resources, and the cooperation between the three regional organizations, ECCAS, ECOWAS, and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, as well as the involvement of other maritime stakeholders concerned by the piracy issue in the region.

Land acquisitions in West Africa: overview, drivers and issues for security

Land acquisitions in West Africa have soared to an unprecedented level in the wake of the 2007-2008 food crisis, giving way to a heated debate on the vulnerability of local communities to the processes of globalization. Large transnational land deals are indeed only part of larger, deeper dynamics that run through regional societies, and the world. They bring with them a range of opportunities and risks, including for the human security of populations already grappling with poverty and underdevelopment. This paper aims at restituting the nuances and complexity of the “land grabbing” theme so as to delineate its consequences in terms of security, and the tools available to tackle them. 


1992-2012, Twenty Years of UN Peacekeeping in Africa: What Results?

From 1992 to 2012, the African continent, beset by multiple crises and conflicts, has witnessed the deployment of more than twenty peacekeeping, peace-consolidation or observation missions under the aegis of the UN, experiencing mixed fortunes. Despite some successes, it remains true that the majority has failed to meet the expectations placed on them; hence the need for Africa to engage more than in the past in the search for solutions to crises and conflicts it faces. 

European arms exports in 2011

Transparency in armaments is an essential ingredient to hold government accountable for their arms transfers. In this regard, the annual report according to article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment is a relevant – yet imperfect – tool of public transparency. By providing data on licences granted and exports of the European Union Member States, it allows national parliaments, citizens, and civil society to be aware of their government’s activities in the arms trade. This paper analyses the latest report covering the year 2011. 



Un état des lieux de la Stratégie européenne pour le Sahel : Désillusions et craintes pour l’avenir du Mali

A summary of this note has been presented at the Conference organized by the Gabriel Péri Foundation on December 11th, 2012.

18 months after the adoption of the EU Strategy for Development and Security, the EU’s implication in the security issues that currently plague the Sahelian region is still confronted to a wide range of challenges and hindrances. In this piece of opinion, the author seeks to provide an assessment of the Strategy and focuses on three of its limitations: first, the lack of timeliness of its reaction. Secondly, the mismatch between ambitions and means for serving these aims. Thirdly, the discrepancy between the EU actions and the expectations and needs of the Sahel countries. Eventually, the paper concludes by providing clues on where the author believes the European security policy in the Sahel should head, and how.

Mineral Resources Management and Conflicts in Mali and Niger

Mineral resources represent major sectors of the economies of Mali (gold) and Niger (uranium, oil). In the uncertain context following the 2011 Libyan crisis and the crumbling of Mali in early 2012, the potential of natural resources to preventing or aggravating conflicts in both countries should be studied. Malian and Nigerian natural resources management policies are examined using a framework of analysis based on the notions of profitability, diversity, durability, and equity. Finally, this paper shows that mineral resources contribute to an aggravation of tensions in Mali while they constitute an incentive for cooperation in the case of Niger. 

The Sahel States and their extra-regional partners: the case of the European Union

This paper focuses on the strategic importance of the Sahel for extra-regional partners and the policies they have deployed to defend and protect their interests. It then underlines the lacks in the European Strategy for development and security in the Sahel After. Finally, a little comparison between the European and the American approaches tries to demonstrate that both face the same difficulties and display disappointing results in key areas. 

Arms Trade Treaty: What prospects for 2013 after the failure of negotiations in July 2012?

Last July the United Nations Member States failed to adopt a treaty that would have established common rules governing the international trade of conventional arms. In March 2013, the States will have a final opportunity to adopt this historic treaty. Nonetheless, the task will be intricate as many disagreements that remain will have to be overcome before a consensus on a final text is reached. When resuming their work, negotiators will rely on a draft text proposed in July, which is analysed hereafter. Welcomed by some and criticized by others, it contains undeniable strong features but also major loopholes and ambiguities. Should these weaknesses remain, they would undermine the ability of the Treaty to meet the objectives assigned to it by the States: increase responsibility in the arms trade to increase human security. 

Arms Trade Treaty – EU Priorities before March 2013 Negotiations

On 28th November 2012, Cédric Poitevin attended the Public Hearing on the Arms Trade Treaty organized by the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence. He gave a presentation analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the draft text of the Chairman of the July 2012 Diplomatic Conference. He then detailed what should be the priorities for the European Union and its Member States in the upcoming negotiations in March 2013. 

Belgian Army Arms Exports – More than an Economic Decision

Un avion de chasse F-16, vendu par l’armée belge à la Jordanie, décolle de la base de Kleine Brogel vers sa nouvelle affectation en septembre 2008. Crédit :

Since the "devolution" of arms transfers controls, exports from the Belgian army were often presented as "residual" competencies. But the nature of weapons transferred is far from trivial: the army exports its 
surplus equipment. This is both an economic and a political decision. The value of transactions involved is often significant. In addition, the federal government is showing less transparency than the three regions, which reduces the level of information available to the parliament and the population as well as their ability to monitor and demand accountability in government. This lack of transparency appears to be directly related to the fragmentation of transfer control and it has implications on the level of responsibility of different authorities. In some cases this situation is likely to foster "irresponsible" arms transfers as well as questionable practices with respect to the European common position on arms exports and the Belgian legislation. 


Monitoring of Regional Stability in the Sahel Region and in West Africa Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal (June to September 2012)

This quarterly monitoring is part of a 3 years project (2011-2013) on “Improving human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in eight countries in West and Central Africa” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal, and other countries of the region depending on the news (Nigeria for this trimester notably). It examines in particular issues related to regional tensions, terrorism and cross-border trafficking, production and transfer of arms and cooperation mechanisms in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime. 

Cross border criminality in West Africa: Framework and limits of regional strategies

In a changing regional context, facing multifaceted risks, West Africa has become one of the centers of the global organized crime. Taking advantage of the weakness of the rule of law and of an acute poverty in some countries, organized trafficking networks multiply illegal activities (arms and gems smuggling, drugs, etc.) in border areas poorly managed by the state apparatus. The countries of the subregion have yet developed in recent years a set of legal instruments and control strategies that could be relevant if they were properly implemented. 

Boko Haram – Fact Sheet (4th October 2012)

The threat posed by armed and terrorists groups on peace and security in West Africa deserves our utmost attention. This updated datasheet on Boko Haram aims to follow the evolution of this Islamist movement active in Northern Nigeria and to highlight the main developments of its ideology, its claims and its connections. It also provides information about its modus operandi and presents an overview of its area of influence. The datasheet is also exploring its various sources of funding. Finally, the most significant actions of this armed group are listed. This datasheet is part of a series of fact sheets on armed groups in West Africa.

Climate change and agro-pastoral conflicts in the Sahel

Conflicts between farmers and herders in the Sahel are sometimes portrayed as a correlate of climate change, and a threat to international stability. Yet, environmental degradation is one factor among many others that can contribute to conflict in the Sahel as elsewhere. Socio-economic and political considerations are crucial. Climate predictions themselves are subject to criticism and hence provide little substance to perceived causal relations between the environment and conflicts. Agro-pastoral conflicts thus generate more questions than answers. Still, they open a wide field of analysis and action and constitute an excellent opportunity to venture into the deep and complex process of transformations undergone by Sahelian societies trying to adjust to contemporary environmental, social political and economic challenges. 

Rare earths : a Chinese shadow on the « green economy »

The “green technologies”, many technological objects of everyday life, but also the development of sophisticated weapons systems depend on 17 metals such as neodymium and dysprosium, called “rare earths”, wich the European Union - as well the United States or Japan – do not control the production and supply. China holds between 20 and 30% of known world reserves of these metals, but being practically alone to exploit the extraction (with disastrous environmental conditions), it provides 97% of world production. Export quotas imposed by China burden the development of a “green economy” but also military capabilities. Whatever the outcome of the dispute before the WTO, a long-term thinking is needed.