South Sahara News Update, August, 2021

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

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.

No fresh news on any of the western hostages.

Covid rates
At the time of this report the “total cases” Covid figures were: Niger 5,919 Mali 14,981, and Tchad 5,016 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
The IOM DTM site report for Niger for the month of July was available, and Mali also for the month of July. 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

Niger: Madama: around 135/day northwards to Libya: 105/day back from Libya. Arlit: around 188/day north to Algeria and 77/day back from Algeria (Note: no monitoring at Assamaka).

Mali: Summed over all northern monitoring stations: 33/day north to Algeria and 17/day back from Algeria.

Tchad: No report again this month.

Tchad announced a withdrawal of 600 of its 1200 soldiers from the Tri-frontier zone of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, back to Tchad to support her troops against Boko Harem who early in the month attacked in the Lake Tchad area and killed some 36 Tchad solders.

The previous President of Tchad, Hissene Habre, died in jail in Senegal while serving a life sentence for atrocities while in office.

Libya again made a promise to suppress Tchad mercenaries based in Libya from undertaking revolts into Tchad. Then late in the month the Tchad president made a proposal for a joint force between Libya, Tchad , Sudan, and Niger on the Libyan border.

Despite the setup of an “Organizing Committee of National Dialog” (CODNI) by the Tchad Transitional Military Council (CMT), several opposition parties claimed it was not representative and biased in favor of the ruling party. Curiously the CMT, appear to welcome the Rebel group FACT to participate, which reportedly accepted. Meanwhile the “Wakit Tama” opposition group and Yaya Dillo, the head of the “New Front for Change” (SCUD) declined.

The UN claimed in a report that over 5m people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Tchad. It reminded readers that there are still over 500,000 refugees in Tchad. In the central parts of Tchad herder-farmer conflicts continue. Another UN report revealed in early August, that so far this year there have been 300 deaths and 6,000 displacements as a result of these conflicts

The month has, most regrettably, seen even more reports of conflicts all over Mali, but especially in the north. In additional there are numerous reports of incidents in the tri-border area near south west Niger. Full details of these incidents are given in the Crisis Group reports.

What happens when the French reduce their presence in this area next year is uncertain: several published articles this month have pointed to a comparison with Afghanistan. (see the Niger section on France’s current plans)

Progress towards elections in Mali next year continues, but opposition groups complain it is being deliberately pushed forward, so as to reduce their effective participation.

The former interim president Bah N’Daw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, were reported released from house arrest by the transitional government, (CNT). On the same day former minister Boubye Maiga and economy minister Bouare Fily Siiskosa, were arrested on charges of corruption.

Boubeye Maïga was reported earlier of being implicated for corruption with the purchase of a presidential plane for nearly 20 billion FCFA during the rule of IBK, the previous Mali president. Meanwhile the delivery to Mali of a transport aircraft is being withheld by the USA

This month saw two major Jihadist attack areas in Niger: in the south west in the Tri-border area between Mali-Burkina-Niger, and near Diffa in the south east near Lake Tchad. In the Tri-border area a series of attacks using motor bikes killed at least 37 people. In the south east near Diffa a military post was attacked late in the month with 16 soldiers killed, but in this case with a claimed 50 plus fatalities in the assailants. Details are available in the Crisis Group reports.

An epidemic of cholera hit Niamey the capital this month with a reported 39 deaths. But some good news: a WFP report indicated the eastern Sahel benefited from above average rainfall over Niger and Tchad this summer.

In France, Macron clarified the reconfiguration of its military support in the Sahel, with the end of “Barkhane”. A statement indicated that reconfiguration of the French system in the Sahel will begin "in the coming weeks." The bases in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in northern Mali are planned to be closed by the end of the year. The new initiative “Takuba”, is reportedly planned to be based in Niamey

The idea is to continue the "refocusing" of French military action in the Tri-border area. In the long term, it appears there will be only "2,500 to 3,000" French soldiers in the region, compared to just over 5,000 currently for the Barkhane force. Further east the American bases at Agades and Dirkou are reported to be still operational.



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