Sahel Research Group 
Weekly News Brief

March 23 - March 29, 2018
SRG Website

New article on intensification of protests in Niger by Sebastian Elischer
In their last article published in The Washington Post on March 26th, Sebastian Elischer of the SRG and Lisa Muller of Macalester College discuss the reasons why Niger’s citizens are protesting the new finance law in a context of continuing uproar that sets the stage for contentious national elections in 2021.

Coming up: Sahel Seminar on AFRICOM's engagement and strategy for the Sahel
Next month’s Sahel Seminar guest speaker is Ambassador Alexander Laskaris, who will discuss on AFRICOM’s engagement and strategy for the Sahel on April 20th. Mr. Laskaris is former US ambassador to Guinea and a career foreign service officer with significant Africa experience. He is currently the State Department's deputy to AFRICOM. Ambassador Laskaris will be accompanied by his executive assistant Dimo Sanchez and by Mr Russ Schiebel, a senior foreign service officer currently at the University of North Florida, who will soon join AFRICOM.

27 March
New development bank dedicated to financing agricultural activities in Burkina Faso
VOA Fasozine La Tribune
  • The Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) validated the creation of a new development bank dedicated to financing agricultural activities, as announced on March 22nd by Paul Kaba Thiéba, Burkina Faso’s prime minister.
  • With funds of $26.3 million, the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso is expected to boost the activities of the agricultural sector, as stated by Bassiaka Dao, president of Burkina’s Confédération Paysanne.
  • The agricultural sector receives only 15 percent of current traditional bank funding in Burkina Faso, where 80 percent of the country’s population sustains itself through agriculture.

28 March
Since January five thousand people have fled insecurity in northern Burkina Faso
Jeune Afrique Africanews Mondafrique
  • In a March 27th press release, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced having rescued some five thousand people, roughly eight hundred families, who fled the northern part of Burkina Faso at the border with Mali, an area plagued by frequent jihadi attacks.
  • The period between June and August will be critical for the displaced communities, due to drought and insecurity, warned the ICRC.
  • The northern region of Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has been the site of regular jihadist attacks over the last three years, with 133 deaths in eighty attacks, according to an official report.

24 March
Chadian soldiers clash with Boko Haram militants around Lake Chad
Press TV Jeune Afrique
  • A Chadian soldier and twenty jihadists from Boko Haram were killed on March 23rd during a clash in the Lake Chad region, as announced by a military source.
  • Elements of Boko Haram were dispersed by Chadian military forces while attempting to regroup on the island of Chukou Hadje and many weapons were recovered, declared a Chadian military officer.
  • The Chadian army and civil “vigilance committees” have regularly been patrolling the area of Lake Chad for several years to prevent the return of Boko Haram jihadists to the region of Lake Chad; the last attack by the jihadist group was carried out one month ago.

28 March
National forum moves to establish a presidential regime
RFI DW Le Monde
  • Institutional reform ended in Chad on March 27th, allowing the country’s president, Idriss Déby, in power for twenty-eight years, to run for another two terms of six years each in the new presidential regime.
  • Thomas Dietrich, an analyst and observer of Chadian politics, deplored the absence of opposition and major civil society movements at the forum for constitutional and administrative reforms that launched the institutional reform.
  • According to Dietrich, the reform, moving away from the concept of democracy, established an ultra-presidential regime removing the function of prime minister and giving all powers to Idriss Déby.

27 March
Prime Minister Maïga calls for reconciliation and coalition against the Jihadists
  • Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maïga pushed for national reconciliation and coalition against jihadist groups, in a March 26th speech in Bandiagara, the final part of his visit to the north of Mali.
  • Mr. Maïga ended his three-day trip to the cities of Bandiagara and Djenné, where leaders of Fulani and Dogon communities met seeking reconciliation after dozens of people were left dead in recent fights between both communities.
  • Mali's prime minister traveled to the northern rebel stronghold of Kidal on March 23rd, marking the first such trip of a prime minister since a peace deal was signed in 2015.

28 March
Armed groups sign a new agreement to speed up the implementation of peace accord
Maliactu RFI
  • An agreement was signed on March 27th between the Malian government, pro-government armed groups, and former rebellion of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), in hopes of speeding up the implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation to end the conflict in the north.
  • Among the twenty-one points of the document, the text advises the postponing of local elections scheduled for April in order to focus on the July presidential election.
  • This constitutes a further step in the ongoing peace process that aims also to create an enabling environment for the authorities to provide oversight throughout Mali for the presidential elections taking place on July 29th.

26 March
Egyptian University Al-Azhar to open a branch in Nouakchott
RFI Le 360
  • A new West African regional Islamic studies center will open in Mauritania, as announced after the visit of Cheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, to Nouakchott.
  • The aim of the new Islamic center is to promote the Ashaari doctrine, named after a famous theologian and founder of a school of thought that fights against fundamentalism.
  • In Mauritania, where Islam is a state religion and all Mauritanians are officially Muslim, many scholars historically contributed to the spread of moderate Sunni Islam. 

28 March
African Union and G5 Sahel meeting opens in Nouakchott
Apanews Cridem
  • Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz inaugurated the G5 group consultation meeting of the African Union taking place in Nouakchott, on March 28th.
  • According to President Abdel Aziz, the Mauritanian strategy, which has been to address violent extremism with multi-sector measures, has produced important results in securing the Mauritanian territory.
  • The Nouakchott meeting is expected to lead to the development of a comprehensive approach to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of optimal implementation of the Sahel G5 strategies.

26 March
Mohamed Bazoum re-elected president of the ruling party
Actuniger Niamey et les 2 jours
  • Mohamed Bazoum, president of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), was re-elected on March 24th for four years at the head of the ruling political party in Niger, as stated in a press release.
  • With this appointment, the party in power is prepared to work towards a new presidential mandate for the 2021 election, which will coincide with the end of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s second mandate.
  • Mohamed Bazoum has been president of the PNDS since 2013, and is also the Nigerien state minister of internal affairs and public security.

28 March
Several civil society and opposition leaders arrested
Le Monde Actuniger
  • A demonstration in Niamey became violent against the police on March 26th and twenty-three civil society and opposition leaders were arrested the following day, as reported by local media.
  • The demonstrators were charged for demonstrating illegally, and causing damage to public and private property, as declared by officials of the NGO collective behind the protest.
  • Amnesty International called for the release of the twenty-three activists, as the wave of arrests and the brutal response of security forces are violating the demonstrators’ rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, and risk escalating an already tense situation in Niger.

24 March
Japan will fund a seawater desalination plant in Dakar
Apanews Infoglitz
  • The Senegalese minister of Economy and Finance, Amadou Bâ, and the Japanese ambassador to Senegal, Shigeru Omori, signed on March 21st in Dakar an agreement promising $257 million of funding for the construction of a seawater desalination plant in Dakar, in an area of volcanic hills named Les Mamelles.
  • The construction of the desalination plant is scheduled to start in 2019, announced Mr. Amadou Bâ. 
  • The Japanese-Senegalese cooperation dates back to 1974 when the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) invested in areas such as education and vocational training.

28 March
Resignation of the Senegalese judge Ibrahima Deme
RFI Business Ghana
  • Senegalese Justice Ibrahima Hamidou Dème announced he was resigning from his position immediately, in a March 26th letter that was published in local media.
  • The magistrate, who was the former general substitute for the general attorney at the Court of Appeal of Dakar, denounced a justice system in crisis that has lost all credibility and authority.
  • The justice’s resignation comes just four days before the expected end of one of the country’s most politically-charged court cases against Khalifa Sall, mayor of Dakar.
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Sahel Research Group · Center for African Studies · University of Florida · Gainesville, FL 32611 · USA

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