In the Sahel, the conflict continues to escalate whilst social and political tensions are rising, forcing more people to flee across the region. As of the end of July 2020, close to 1,000,000 people are displaced within Burkina Faso representing more than half of all IDPs in the region.
UNHCR entered into a partnership with the African Development Bank and the G5 Sahel to support the COVID-19 response across the Sahel region. The USD 20 million project will allow Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to strengthen their response to the pandemic and mitigate its socio-economic impact.
Political and security developments
▪ In the Sahel, the conflict continues to escalate whilst social and political tensions are rising, forcing more people to flee across the region. The persistence and spread of violence, even against sophisticated and wellresourced international military forces, illustrates the need for responses that address the social, economic and political grievances that are being manifested as violent extremism.
▪ In Burkina Faso, the security situation continues to deteriorate in the Sahel, East, North and the Centre North regions as armed groups perpetrate attacks against authorities and civilian populations. In Centre North, on 8 July, the mayor of Pensa was attacked, reported missing before being found dead a few hours later. Fights between different factions are becoming more frequent with severe consequences for civilians. As a result, populations from several villages in the provinces of Soum and Oudalan, in the Sahel region, have left for Gorom-Gorom in search of safety. In addition, challenges linked to humanitarian access persist, where Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are used on the road linking Djibo to Mentao. The search for a solution regarding lack of access continues within the Working Group on Access and the Civil/Military Coordination actors.
Following parliamentarians’ proposal to postpone the legislative elections to next year, a meeting was held on 10 July between the majority and opposition political parties. They confirmed that the legislative elections will be held as initially planned, i.e. at the same time as the presidential elections on 22 November 2020.
▪ In Mali, thousands of people took to the streets in recent weeks, sparking clashes with police. In addition, the security constraints, along with the recent rainfalls and floods in high-risk areas where displaced populations are living (in Kayes, Gao, Koulikoro, Mopti and Timbuktu), further limit access to remote areas where many Persons of Concern (PoC) are located. In this tensed political context, the Operation Takuba conducted by combined European and Sahelian forces has started in Mali, in support of the French forces of the Operation Barkhane.
▪ In Mauritania, the overall political and security situation continues to be stable, though continued instability in Mali and its potential impact on Mauritania remain of major concern. The government of Mauritania has included refugees in its national health response to COVID-19 in line with its pledges during the Global Refugee Forum.
▪ In Niger, while much focus of the humanitarian and development community is now on COVID-19, conflict dynamics continued to cause forced movements of the population in the Sahel. Since the beginning of the year, the security situation has been extremely volatile and worrisome with successive lethal attacks against military positions in Inates, Sinegodar and Agando. Several military positions have been abandoned by the defense and security forces and a resurge of massive attacks targeting the civilian population has been noted. These attacks have triggered several waves of forced displacement of populations to more secure areas. Following the attack on the Intikane Refugee Hosting Area, 26% of the total population of Intikane has moved to the site of Telemces, where UNHCR continues to assist them.
▪ In Côte d’Ivoire, the Council of Ministers adopted on 13 July a decree creating a “Northern Operational Zone” following persistent insecurity at its border with Mali and Burkina Faso. The creation of this zone, following the attack on the Ivorian army post in Kafolo on 11 June 2020, will reinforce military presence to prevent the infiltration of armed groups into the country and address the growing insecurity on its norther borders. In this context, UNHCR and its partners are supporting Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin in their contingency planning for a potential influx in the coming months from the conflict in the Sahel.