Leaders of five Sahelian countries in West Africa and their French counterpart will hold a summit this week to discuss the fight against armed groups in the volatile region.
The heads of state of the so-called G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – will converge in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, while French President Emmanuel Macron will attend virtually.
The conflict in the western portion of the Sahel largely between state forces and armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda has ravaged the semi-arid strip south of the Sahara Desert for much of the past decade, sparking a major humanitarian crisis.
Almost 7,000 people died due to worsening fighting last year, according to data by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project. In late January, the United Nations warned the “unrelenting violence” had internally displaced more than two million people, up from 490,000 at the start of 2019.
France has 5,100 troops stationed across the Sahel, alongside UN, American and European partners. At the summit, it is expected to announce a drawdown of 600 soldiers from Barkhane, its military operation in the region.
But what other issues are expected to be on the agenda of the talks on Monday and Tuesday, and how has the conflict shifted since the last major Sahel summit in the French city of Pau?