South Sahara News Update, September-October, 2021

This update has been compiled by Christer Wilkinson from a variety of sources.

This report exceptionally covers two months: the author was on vacation in October.

Conflict Group Reports
Readers are reminded that the Crisis Group ( 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 ago.

Covid rates
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 mis-reporting

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 unabated.

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 US assistance.

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 areas.

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).



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