Sahara News Update, September-October, 2021
update has been compiled by Christer Wilkinson from a variety
This report exceptionally covers two
months: the author was on vacation in October.
Conflict Group Reports
Readers are reminded that the Crisis Group (www.crisisgroup.org) publishes
a detailed monthly report on all rebel attacks and other violent incidents
in the three countries covered in this news summary and other countries
including Burkina Faso.
The Columbian nurse Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti taken
hostage in 2017, was finally released following lengthy negotiations.
No news on the other western hostages, but three Chinese taken from
a construction site earlier this year were released. Mean while Sophie
Petronin has returned to Mali and suggested talks with the Jihadists,
and getting an “irresponsibility” charge from the French
government. It appears that she might have returned to Mali some month
At the time of this report the “total cases” Covid figures
were: Niger 6,490 Mali 16,371, and Tchad 5,105 cases. Due to different
collection criteria these figures are not completely comparable. These
reported case counts are low compared with other countries, and reflect
a surprisingly low per capita infection rate and an overall low infection
rate. Unlike some other countries there is no evidence of deliberate
Migrant trends northbound.
During this period the government of Niger received a commendation from
the IOM for the way it handled migrants.
The IOM DTM site report for Niger and Mali also for the month of September.
There was no report for Tchad.
It should be noted that these figures in these reports are only for
migrants at the monitoring points and migrants who avoid these points
are not included. In addition, the accumulation of refugees at remote
frontier points such as Assamaka are not included, nor are repatriation
convoys or organized rescues.
The figures (estimated where full details are not available) show migrant
traffic across the northern borders of Niger and Mali, as follows:
Niger: Madama: around 210/day northwards to Libya: 46/day back from
Libya. Arlit: around 115/day north to Algeria and 75/day back from Algeria
(Note: no monitoring at Assamaka).
Mali: Summed over all northern monitoring stations: 26/day north to
Algeria and 05/day back from Algeria.
Exxon Mobil stated in late October that it had temporarily cut back
production at its unit in Chad and reduced staffing in the country to
essential personnel following worker protests against a proposed sale
of its stake in the Doba oilfield.
The president of the transitional Military Council Itna Deby made a
trip to Turkey to solicit support.
In September there were report that Deby might include his relative,
Timan Erdimi of the UFR, in the reconciliation talks. Meanwhile he appointed
Baba Ladde of the FPR as director of intelligence.
In late September Tchad issued a warning about interference by outside
groups and specifically mentioned the Wagner group from Russia, claiming
that it has supported an attack from the CAR and had aided FACT.
In mid-September a report came in reporting on a significant clash between
members of FACT, the groups which advanced to close to the capital Ndjamena
earlier this year, and forces of Libyan general Hafta. According to
FACT they were supported by Sudan forces and French special forces.
Both deny their involvement. At the end of September, the Tchad government
announced it planned to increase the army size from 35,000 to 60,000
to cope with security challenges.
At the end of September, the world bank put pressure on Glencore, the
multi-national company based in Switzerland, to restructure Tchad’s
debt claiming it was unsustainable. Unfortunately, Glencore has not
had a good year and has issues with investment in two other African
countries, Congo Brazzaville, and Cameroon. But recent reports indicate
that 2021 to 2022 may be a good year.
The two months of this report saw a series of demonstrations in the
capital against the ruler Junta. The reaction by the Junta has varied.
Wakit Tama’s march on Oct 2nd was claimed have had numerous casualties:
this was denied by the government. Later the offices of another party
“The Transformers” was raided and the next day several opposition
leaders arrested but released the next day. Meanwhile the Special committee
on Dialogue visited Paris and Egypt to talk to armed group representatives.
The outcome is unclear.
Meanwhile in the east, conflicts between herders and farmers continue
The conflict in Mali gets no better. The reports of clashes between
various groups and Jihadist becomes difficult to follow. These clashes
are not constrained to the north but occur almost all over Mali. Details
are available in the Crisis groups reports.
The French had two success this period with the reported deaths of two
senior Jihadists: ISGS’s “Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui”
and JNIM’s “Oumarou Mobo Modhi”, as a result of Joint
French Mali operations and in the second case, in October, reported
The Mali government has asked its Islamic authorities to open peace
talks with Al Qaeda’ local affiliate. This generated a strong
rejection from the French who are due to reduce their troop commitments
in the new year. The negotiations with Wagner (the Russian mercenary
groups previously involved in Libya) was also protested by the French.
The Mali government responded that it had the right to seek help from
whoever it chose.
Reports also came in of the first clash between the British troops supporting
the UN mission and Jihadists.
But on the positive side it is report that the cotton crop this year
is likely over 350% greater than last year due to an increase in cultivated
ECOWAS, the west African economic grouping expressed a concern in October
about the rate of progress towards new elections. The result: the representative
was asked to leave Mali. A UN delegation including the US, French and
Niger representatives also visited Mali in October to urge a return
to democratic rule. The UN also pressed for an end to the so called
“hereditary slavery” still encountered in Mali.
In an odd footnote it was reported that a Rwandan genocide “kingpin”,
Theoneste Bagosora, has died in a Mali jail.
The number of incidents with Islamicists in
Niger is nothing like that in Mali, but is still significant: the south
east area near to Lake Tchad seems to be getting quieter but the area
near Maradi seems to be picking up occasional incidences. For full details
see the Crisis Group’s reports.
There is unfortunately a cholera epidemic in Niger.
According to MSF, 4,283 have had the disease and 144 have died.
The Canadian TSX Venture Exchange via its subsidiary GoviEx Uranium
is seeking funding of about 350m$ to fund a uranium mine in Niger near
Madoaouela, some 10 k south of Arlit.
Savannah Energy is also negotiating for a 10 year extension to four
oil production sharing areas in Niger. (Curiously it is also seeking
to buy the Exxon Mobil oil assets in Tchad.
The Niger government is soliciting bids for a 50MW solar power facility
near the capital Niamey.
The Cure Sale festival was a success again this year despite all the
issues, at its normal location near In Gall to the west of Agades.
The IOM complimented Niger on its handling of migrants, contrasting
it with other countries. (see IOM figures above).