National and foreign forces deployed to fight terrorism in the Sahel are increasingly harming civilians. Figures from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) indicate that security forces caused more civilian fatalities in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2020 than violent extremist groups or communal violence.
Things aren’t getting any better this year. French Operation Barkhane, Chadian contingents of the G5 Sahel Joint Force and other national and international forces in the region have recently faced serious allegations of human rights violations against locals. These range from rape and sexual assault to deliberate or mistaken killings of civilians during operations.
Violence against civilians in this context breaks international humanitarian law. It also deprives military operations of a key ingredient to their success: the population’s cooperation. Repeated blunders and unaccountable military interventions make it unlikely that civilians will trust or support counter-terrorism operations.
Author(s): Ornella Moderan , Habibou Souley Bako and Paul-Simon Handy
Publisher or Journal: ISS
Year of Publication: 2021