The Armed Conflict in the Sahel Region and Efforts of the ECOWAS to Settle it


Alexander Zhambikov


The article describes the armed conflict in the Sahel region, lasting for ten years and affecting three countries: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The objective of research is to characterise and assess the activities of the regional organisation ECOWAS in the context of Sahel peace-settlement. The Sahel conflict was a direct consequence of destruction of the Libyan state, as a result of the civil war and NATO military intervention in 2011, which created conditions for rebel invasion to Mali in January 2012.

The ECOWAS initially tried to solve the conflict by means of mediation, at the same time considering deployment of peacemakers. The war in the Sahel region involved international terrorist groups and resulted in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in Northern Mali. The radicalisation of insurgents led to a collapse of peace talks in early 2013. The French military intervention in January 2013 had only temporary effect due to employment of guerrilla tactics by the terrorists. The ECOWAS troops were deployed to Mali, but the conflict further expanded to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The Sahel conflict poses a serious threat to the entire Community, because it has caused degradation of social and political situation in the affected countries and tends to spread to the South to the Gulf of Guinea. The ECOWAS peace-settlement efforts have not yet succeeded due to limited personnel and resources of the organisation, however, cooperation among its member-states has so far proved useful in preventing the spread of terrorist operations to the South towards the Gulf of Guinea.

The armed conflict in the Sahel region has resulted in military coups d’état in Mali and Burkina Faso, which is a matter of concern for the ECOWAS that aims at strengthening democracy and good governance among member-states. The research resulted in revelation of the dilemma for the ECOWAS: to continue support to military regimes in Sahel to combat terrorism or impose sanctions against them. The author argues that sanctions can be counterproductive and allow extremists to strengthen their positions in the Sahel region.


Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Sahel, ECOWAS, military coup d’état




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