Rising radicalism in the Sahel: Mali & Regional Destabilisation
Panel discussion in association with the African Leadership Centre (ALC) and the Conflict Security & Development Group (CSDG) at King's College London - Room 3B20, Strand Campus, King’s College, London WC2R 2LS
Speakers: Mr Ali Soufan (CEO, The Soufan Group) and Dr 'Funmi Olonisakin (Director, African Leadership Centre). Chair: Professor Jack Spence OBE (Department of War Studies, King’s College London).
Radical Islam in the Sahel has attracted mass international attention in recent weeks. Rebel groups, united by a shared fundamental religious ideology, are encroaching on the governments of Mali and Northern Nigeria.
After Mali experienced a coup last March and lost control of the north of the country, the political vacuum was filled by a combination of Tuareg separatists and Islamic fundamentalists hoping to establish a separate Islamic state. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, once a local insurgency, has now forged ties with a number of jihadist militias including Mali, Somalia, and the wider Sahel.
Since the Algerian civil war in the 1990s, the Sahara desert has been home to a growing number of fundamentalists and seen a rise in the trafficking of contraband. The fall of the Gadhafi regime in 2011 further destabilised the region, as arms flowed freely south from Libya and drugs continued to be smuggled north from the West African coast.
The arrival of French troops in Mali to combat the radical Islamists marks a turning point in European policy towards Saharan states. However, given the country’s vast un-policed borders, the commitment of ECOWAS to resolving the conflict and a European public well aware of the dangers of foreign interference, solving the Mali crisis raises the following questions: How far-reaching should French intervention in Mali be? With continued pressure, is there a risk that the militants in the North will simply migrate to other parts of the Sahel, such as Mauritania? What can we expect from the ECOWAS response - the recently deployed African International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) - under the leadership of the regional powerhouse, Nigeria?
Focusing on Mali, this event will look at the wider implications for the Sahel. We will examine the structural causes of the rising tide in extremist movements and ask - what will be the regional and international response that will succeed in stopping the fall of the Sahara?
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