Mali is increasingly advocating the opening of negotiations

The taboo of a dialogue with the Islamists to get out of a war that has lasted for eight years has long been broken.

Officially nothing has changed. The famous formula “We do not negotiate with terrorists” remains the mantra on the agenda in the Sahel conflict. Emmanuel Macron recalled in November, in an interview with Young Africa, and with a somewhat martial tone, that he intended to stick to the Algiers accords alone. “These provide for a dialogue with different political and autonomist groups. But that does not mean that we have to dialogue with terrorist groups, which continue to kill civilians and soldiers, including our soldiers ”, explained the president. “I don’t quite see what we could talk about with people who intend to impose Sharia law on an entire country”, underlines a French official.

But beyond the postures, the taboo of a possible dialogue with the Islamists to get out of a war that has lasted for eight years, without the slightest outcome being in sight, has long been broken. The Malian government has openly mentioned and even promoted it. First fiercely

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In the Sahel, the “great green wall” struggles to rise from the ground

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Initiated fifteen years ago to fight against desertification in the Sahel, “the great green wall”, vegetation of 8,000 km stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, is still embryonic. On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an envelope of more than $ 14 billion to give a boost to this great pan-African project.

The idea was launched in 2007 by a handful of African states: to build a “great green wall” of 8,000 km stretching from Dakar to Djibouti and thus contribute to the economic and ecological transformation of one of the poorest regions. of the world.

But the progress report, presented in September 2020 by the United Nations, is hardly encouraging. Today, it is estimated that barely 4% of the target for 2030 has been reached, or 4 million hectares of land developed out of the 100 million of the program, half of which has been achieved by Ethiopia and its ambitious reforestation program.

Lack of leadership, under investment, technical difficulties, insecurity in the Sahel … the reasons for this failure are multiple. However, according to its supporters, the “great green wall” could not only make it possible to fight against desertification but also to create employment thanks to a mosaic of agricultural projects respectful of the environment and biodiversity.

Over $ 14 billion in pledges

To support the project, Emmanuel Macron announced Monday that an envelope of $ 14.3 billion (11.8 billion euros) over five years (2021-2025) had been established.

“We are truly preparing the Africa of 2030”, said the French president at the Élysée Palace, where the fourth edition of the “One Planet Summit” devoted to biodiversity is being held, with the participation of around thirty personalities, most of them by videoconference.

“It is 100 million hectares restored, 10 million jobs created, 250 million tons of carbon sequestered. It is also, through this initiative, the capacity for Africa to show that it is an actor of the fight against global warming, ”he added.

Donors include the World Bank and the European Commission. A secretariat has been set up to ensure that commitments are met.

With Reuters

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In 2021, Africa will need to avoid a cycle of re-indebtedness

Guided by the African Union, governments will work to obtain a new suspension of debt service. A file in which Paris intends to get involved.

The year 2021 in Africa will, as elsewhere, be dominated by the management of the consequences of the Covid. The epidemic has certainly, for the moment, relatively spared it, allowing to display data much inferior to other parts of the globe. But this exception seems to be marking time. South Africa, the most affected country on the continent, exceeded one million cases at the end of December, while North Africa is affected by a second severe wave. It also affects states that have hitherto been preserved such as Mali and Niger, but also certain countries in East Africa. The already weak health systems could very quickly find themselves under strain, even if the arrival of vaccines – especially those from China that are easier to transport – offers a mildly optimistic outlook.

The African economy will continue to suffer, but unevenly. After a catastrophic year 2020 due to the pandemic, marked by a 3% recession according to the IMF, the first for a quarter of

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In Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou hands over

Respecting the constitution, after two terms, he will not be a presidential candidate on Sunday.

President Mahamadou Issoufou will succeed on Sunday with his bet. On that day, Niger will vote for presidential and legislative elections, in peace. The outgoing head of state, at the head of the country for ten years and two terms, does not stand, as the Constitution provides. “I always said that I will respect the texts», Repeats, falsely astonished questions on this subject, the quasi ex-president.

His decision won him a concert of praise, while at the same time two of his West African counterparts, in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, amended their basic law to allow themselves a third term. For Niger, the announced departure of Mahamadou Issoufou also marks the first peaceful transition since independence in 1960, in a state long marked by a violent political culture and coups d’état.

Beyond these symbols, the other Issoufou bet will be more difficult to win. His designated successor, Mohamed Bazoum, is certainly the big favorite. But

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Burkina Faso before the election: voting in times of terror

The opposition in Burkina Faso wants to negotiate with Islamist terrorist groups, but President Kaboré is against it. The security situation remains tense.

Opposition election campaign: “Together we will save the fatherland!” Photo: Katrin Gänsler

OUAGADOUGOU taz | All of a sudden, election fever rises in the center of Ouagadougou. Around 20 supporters of Zéphirin Diabré and his Union for Progress and Change (UPC) meander through the narrow streets of the huge market district.

They are on foot and on yellow bicycles and hold up posters with the party emblem, a lion’s head against a blue background. You hope that the 61-year-old Diabré will be the main opposition candidate in the presidential election next Sunday in the runoff election against incumbent Roch Marc Christian Kaboré from the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP). Parliament is also re-elected.

According to a survey, 63-year-old Kaboré was 42 to 43 percent in October, far from an absolute majority in the first ballot. Five years ago, Kaboré defeated Diabré with 53.5 to 30 percent – in Burkina Faso’s first free election since the popular uprising that had put an end to the regime of long-term president Blaise Compaoré a year earlier.

At that time there was hope and optimism. Today there is disillusionment. The change of power has brought neither more work for the young generation nor a sustainable economic upturn.

State of emergency in many provinces

Instead, Burkina Faso has become the “red zone” in the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, among which armed bandits have long since mixed. The state of emergency applies in 14 out of 45 provinces. The non-governmental organization ACLED has counted 2,730 dead in the past twelve months as a result of attacks, riots and violence against civilians. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 1,049,767 people are on the run in Burkina Faso, out of a population of 21 million. It is already clear that more than 1,330 of the almost 22,000 polling stations will not open on Sunday for security reasons.

Eddie Komboïgo speaks bluntly of war. The 56-year-old businessman, who studied financial accounting and taught at the University of Ouagadougou, is sitting on his light gray leather sofa in his villa in the Zone de Bois district. A young man carries large suitcases into the house. Komboïgo has just returned from his campaign tour, in Gourcy and Ouahigouya, hundreds of kilometers by car. Now, when he returns, numerous people are waiting for him and want something. He puts a group of young people off for the next day.

In Burkina Faso, the fighters are not recruits from outside. You are part of the population

Komboïgo mixes up the choice. He leads Compaoré’s party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), which practically exercised sole rule for decades. In 2015, after Compaoré’s fall, she did not nominate a candidate. Now she wants to return to power with Komboïgo. His chances are good, he thinks, if President Kaboré had a “catastrophic record”.

The dominant issue in the election campaign is the security situation. Komboïgo accuses the incumbent of having made no effort in the past five years to find out who is attacking the country and why.

He advocates a dialogue with the terrorist groups: “How else can hostages be freed? But not through armed force. ”In fact, in March and October, after negotiations with Islamist groups, several hostages were released in Mali, some of whom had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso. When asked what should be negotiated, he reacts angrily: “You first have to know what they are asking for.”

Local fighters with hardly any prospects

Talks with the Islamist underground: That is the key question in the election campaign. Diabré also recently emphasized that gun violence alone has never successfully combated terrorism. In his view, a dialogue is inevitable.

In Burkina Faso, the fighters are not recruits from North Africa or the Middle East, but locals or at most Malians. They are part of the population in a region that has hardly any prospects to offer and is also severely affected by climate change and the associated deterioration in living conditions.

President Kaboré has said several times that there will be no deals under him. To position yourself differently now would be an admission of the wrong strategy. In conversations in Ouagadougou it is always clear that peace and security are more important to many people than rigid positions. In any case, consensus solutions play an important role in Burkina Faso’s political culture.

Ex-President Compaoré always held talks on Islamist terrorist groups and is said to have concluded several agreements with them. Under him, Burkina Faso was still considered stable when neighboring Mali had long since overturned in 2012. The attacks only increased massively from the end of 2015.

Regarding the question of how Compaoré dealt with the Islamists, Komboïgo waves it aside: “Nothing was signed.” Only before the 2013 elections in Mali was there an agreement with Tuareg groups. But Compaoré managed to bring about peace in Burkina Faso, stressed his successor as party leader. It is unclear to what extent the ex-president, who lives in exile in Ivory Coast, will still act as a puller at the CDP. Komboïgo keeps a low profile and answers briefly: “He gives advice.”

Rumors of deals with Islamists

It is questionable whether there were actually no talks between the government and Islamists under Kaboré. An observer in Ouagadougou speaks of possible non-aggression pacts in the northern Sahel region, which borders Mali and Niger. Near the local city of Djibo, state security forces and suspected terrorists are said to have left alone. It is not clear to which group they belong and whether they are organized at all.

In any case, many rumors cannot be verified. Unlike in Niger, for example, there have been no kidnappings of employees of non-governmental organizations in the past few months, but attacks on the army. Religious representatives who are moderately well-known have also been targeted, such as the Imam of Djibo, whose body was found by armed men in mid-August a few days after his kidnapping.

Issa Diallo, President of the National Commission for the Language of the Peul (known as Fulani in Anglophone West Africa) also calls for the security situation to urgently improve. “All Peul who live in rural areas currently feel terrorized. You sleep poorly or not at all, ”he says. The ethnic group, known throughout the region for their livestock farming, would be attacked by state security forces.

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch reports on massacres in Djibo. There is also danger from the self-defense militias that have been set up in recent years among members of other ethnic groups. At first they just protected their villages from raids, today they have nationwide structures and the blessing of the government. The discussion is whether they should ensure security around the polling stations on Sunday.

Diallo says the militias scare the Peul. The Peul have one thing firmly in mind: They want to vote wherever possible. “It will be the first time in history that they will cast their votes in large numbers,” Diallo is sure. More than usual have applied for voter cards in advance. “After all, voting is the only way to change the situation in the country.”

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In Niger, the last traditions of the Peuls

REPORT – Breeders and nomads for many of them, this Sahelian tribe retains a strong identity underlined by customs such as the Guéréwol nuptial ritual. Yet many young people are tempted to join the jihadist ranks.

Face made up in vermilion red, lips and dark eyebrows, a young Wodaabe is ready to face the gaze of the female jury.
Face made up in vermilion red, lips and dark eyebrows, a young Wodaabe is ready to face the gaze of the female jury. Pascal Maitre / Myop

From our special envoys Jean-Marc Gonin (text) and Pascal Maitre / MYOP (photos)

In the Sahel, Mother Nature is capricious. Cruel to some, she is generous to others. At the end of the rainy season, farmers in northern Niger curse her while the herders give her thanks. The crops of the former, in particular onions which make up the essential part of their sales, have been swept away by the overflows of the wadis. The pastures of the latter are covered with tall, soft green grass. Walking through these expanses on the edge of the Sahara delivers an extremely rare spectacle: abundant vegetation, riddled with ponds filled with rainwater. “The animals profit, notes Badédé, a Fulani trader from Agadez. They eat and drink as much as they want. “

The celestial windfall delights the Peuls. A good part of this important Sahelian ethnic group, established from Senegal to Ethiopia and whose number is around 40 million, still live on pastoralism. Nomads

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Surprise! satellites counted more trees west of the Sahara and the Sahel than previously thought

Data collected by satellites enabled researchers to inventory trees west of the Sahara and the Sahel with a level of detail never equaled over such a large area. And against all odds, they listed more than they had imagined. Soon, thanks to artificial intelligence, the location and size of every tree on Earth can be mapped.

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Southern Sahara and the Sahel are home to more thantrees previously thought, playing a “crucial role” for the biodiversity and the lives of populations, according to a study published Wednesday in the revue Nature.

The international team of researchers has developed a pattern recognition program by artificial intelligence for count trees with a plant surface of more than three square meters, from more than 11,000 images satellite High Definition.

Over an area of ​​1.3 million km2 (i.e. two and a half times the area of ​​metropolitan France) in the south of the Sahara, the Sahelian strip (semi-arid zone south of desert) and sub-humid areas in Africa from the west, they were able to count more than 1.8 billion trees. Or an average of 13.4 trees per hectare, with a median plant cover of 12 m2.

An astonishing density of trees

This vegetation, certainly sparse, ” plays a crucial role for biodiversity and forecosystem as storage of carbone, food resources and shelter for human and animal populations, note the researchers. Although the total vegetation cover is low, the relatively high density of isolated trees challenges the prevailing idea of desertification dry areas, and even the desert offers a surprising density of trees ».

The density increases as it descends towards the wetter zones in the South, from 0.7 trees per hectare in the “hyper-arid” zones, to 9.9 in the arid zone, 30.1 in the semi-arid zone 47 trees per hectare in a sub-humid zone.

AI to identify every tree on Earth

In addition to this census, the study offers a new method for studying the presence of trees outside dense forest areas, and in particular their possible role in matter of climate change and therefore potentially poverty, through their contribution to the agricultural systems, the authors say.

« This kind of data is very important to establish a base. And in two or ten years, we could repeat the study to see if efforts to revitalize [la végétation] are effective “, Explained in a press release one of the researchers, Jesse Meyer, of the American space agency. Nasa.

The AI ​​technique used further suggests “ that it will soon be possible, within certain limits, to map the location and size of all trees, [une connaissance] fundamental to our understanding ofecology worldwide Said Niall P. Hanan and Julius Anchang of the American University of New Mexico, in an analysis of the study commissioned and published by Nature.

This video allows you to see the scientific work. © NASA

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How Macron is waging his secret wars

INVESTIGATION – Since his election, the President has launched increasingly offensive military operations and authorizes serial “neutralizations”. Our collaborator Vincent Nouzille investigated this top secret facet of presidential action.

By Vincent Nouzille

Emmanuel Macron, May 14, 2019, during the tribute ceremony to the two special forces soldiers who died on May 10 during an operation in Burkina Faso.
Emmanuel Macron, May 14, 2019, during the tribute ceremony to the two special forces soldiers who died on May 10 during an operation in Burkina Faso. Jacques Witt / SIPA

It was a summery, but chilling defense council. On August 11, 2020, from Fort Brégançon, President Emmanuel Macron meets by videoconference with his Prime Minister Jean Castex, the royal ministers, the chief of staff of the armed forces and the bosses of the intelligence services. The agenda is serious, mourning the murder, on August 9, of eight people, two Nigerians and six French members of the NGO Acted, in the Kouré reserve, near Niamey, in Niger. A real massacre committed by men arriving on motorcycles.

Until now, this area still seemed protected from repeated attacks by jihadist groups who have spread their guerrillas in several countries of the Sahel. The 5,100 French soldiers of Operation Barkhane have increased for six months the lightning operations aimed at weakening the two main rival nebulae, the GSIM (Support Group for Islam and Muslims), linked to al-Qaida, and the EIGS (Islamic State in the Great Sahara), affiliated with Daesh, in particular

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a fortress inspired by the military genius of Vauban to stop Islamist terrorism

SEEN FROM ELSEWHERE – On the border with Niger, France has built an outpost considered impregnable.

By LENA

Labbezanga, where an outpost considered impregnable has been built, is located 200 kilometers from the Gao military base, where more than 5,000 soldiers from Operation “Barkhane” are deployed.
Labbezanga, where an outpost considered impregnable has been built, is located 200 kilometers from the Gao military base, where more than 5,000 soldiers from Operation “Barkhane” are deployed. BENOIT TESSIER / REUTERS

Par Pietro Del Re, correspondant to Bamako (The Republic)

To defend the village of Labbezanga, located on the border between Mali and Niger, from jihadist offensives, the French have just built an outpost considered impregnable. To do this, they were inspired by the fortifications built by their ancestors during the Renaissance period, including the Citadel of Besançon, the Tour Vauban (initially Tour de Camaret) or the Fort Carré d’Antibes, buildings which are all listed UNESCO World Heritage Site and were all built by France’s most famous military engineer, the Marquis Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. In Labbezanga, this return to the past has a specific objective: to resist the Islamist phalanges in a portion of the desert where militiamen affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State swarm, an area located 200 kilometers from the Gao military base, where the more than 5000 soldiers of Operation “Barkhane”, sent by Paris are deployed

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In the Sahel, fear of the return of child soldiers

DECRYPTION – Operation Barkhane is concerned about the recruitment of minors by terrorist groups.

A French army soldier patrols in northern Burkina Faso last November during Operation Barkhane.
A French army soldier patrols in northern Burkina Faso last November during Operation Barkhane. MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

Operation Barkhane’s latest offensive against terrorist groups in the Sahel has borne fruit, but a long-term threat looms. The Islamic State in the Grand Sahara, designated as the main enemy since January, suffered severe losses, according to the French general staff. “Its human and material capacities have been greatly reduced”, welcomed General Facon, commander of the Barkhane force, Thursday, during an exchange with the press. But “The enemy has hardened. He no longer hesitates to resort to child soldiers. The latter are indoctrinated and trained in the handling of weapons ”, he warned.

“This abject exploitation puts us in difficulty”, agreed General Facon. Child soldiers are nothing new. In 2013 already, al-Qaida was pushing young recruits on the Sahelian terrain. Their presence in the terrorist ranks, intended to divert the vigilance of the soldiers or to serve as a fact of human shield, constitutes a challenge for the Western armies. Each

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