Food Insecurity in the Sahel: A 12-Month Outlook

Food insecurity and famine are recurring issues which plague every region of Africa. The current food crisis in the Sahel adds the dimension of terror to the humanitarian equation. In the Sahel, food scarcity and terrorism exist in a symbiotic relationship, where food insecurity exacerbates the factors which lead to terrorism, and terrorism in turn amplifies the factors which lead to famine. The issue of hunger will need to be addressed before any progress is made in the realm of security.

KJ-1: It is likely that the rate of terrorist activity in the Lake Chad Basin will increase in the next 12 months. 

  • The Lake Chad Basin envelopes several countries, including Chad, Niger, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Nigeria [source].
  • At least 5 of these states suffer from pronounced levels of insurgent violence [source]. 
  • Tensions over land usage and water rights in Cameroon generate inter-communal violence. The prevalence of arms trafficking further fuels violence. Some 11,000 people fled Cameroon into Chad to escape the violence [source].  
  • Islamic State – West Africa Province and Boko Haram continue to operate in northern Cameroon, posing a threat to civilian life, and since last May, are responsible for hundreds of attacks [source]. 
  • ISWAP targets young, vulnerable men in northern Cameroon for recruitment. ISWAP further restrained itself from attacking civilian targets in order to generate sympathy amongst the local population [source].  
  • Several insurgent groups operate in Niger’s Tillabéri, Tahoua, Diffa and Maradi regions. In Tillabér, the deaths from terror-related incidents doubled last year. UN Secretary-General Guterres visited Niger to stress the need for additional support to counter cross-border incursions from Nigeria [source]. 
  • Chadian president Idriss Déby Itno was killed last year by FACT rebel forces based in Libya. FACT in turn fought under Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar with heavy weapons and vehicles [source].  

KJ-2: It is highly likely that terrorist-related activity will amplify food insecurity in the next 12 months.

  • Jama’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad, a splinter group of Boko Haram, regularly targets civilian population centres by stealing crops and food stores [source]. 
  • The insurgents also prohibit farmers from accessing their fields, complicating harvesting and replenishing stolen food stores [source]. 
  • In Niger, the government declared 4.4 million people to be in a state of food insecurity. These areas are hardest hit by terrorism, such as the Diffa region [source]. 
  • The UN believes that 15% of the population of Niger will need humanitarian aid by the year’s end [source]. 
  • In northern Cameroon, the price of fertilizer rose to 15% higher than in the previous 2 years [source].
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs gathered 21% of the total budget needed to render humanitarian aid to the Lake Chad Basin region. As such, the UN cannot offset conflict-generated food shortages with capital [source]. 
  • Some 4 million people in Nigeria’s most violent provinces lack food as a result of the violence [source]. 
  • The prevalence of kidnapping and extortion in northern Nigeria generates fear which prevents commerce and the cultivation of crops [source]. 
  • Across the entire Sahel region, 18 million people will suffer from food shortages in the coming months [source]. 

KJ-3: It is likely that Russian paramilitary and information operations will exploit politically unstable and food-insecure countries in the next 12 months.

  • The military government of Chad accused opposition leader Timan Erdimi, who is currently exiled in Qatar, of attempting to hire Wagner mercenaries to overthrow the junta [source]. 
  • The military government of Chad is ruled by Lt. General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, who came to power after his father died of wounds sustained in battle with FACT rebels. Alongside the food crisis, the younger Itno is still relatively new in power [source]. 
  • Itno dissolved the legislature and cabinet as well as suspended the constitution. Erdimi in turn is a longtime opponent of the Itno family [source]. 
  • Leaked phone recordings purport to show Erdimi in conversation with a close advisor of Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera. CAR currently plays host to Wagner mercenaries. Like Chad, CAR also suffers chronic food instability [source], [source]. 
  • Anti-junta demonstrations broke out in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena this week in which 30 people were killed. The military transition period was meant to end on 20 October [source].
  • In Sudan, where Wagner mercenaries support the rule of General al-Burhan, tribal wars over resources flare up and leave hundreds dead. The most recent violence this week left 150 people killed [source], [source].
  • Pro-Kremlin demonstrations took place in Niger this September, coinciding with anti-French sentiments across the country [source].    

Similar incidents occurred in Burkina Faso before and after the most recent coup [source].

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