How one African nation has become a threat to an entire region

Tuareg independence fighters. Islamist militants have driven Tuareg rebels from their final stronghold in Ansogo, northern Mali. Instability in northern Mali has neighboring countries such as Niger concerned. Photo by: Magharebia

U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized up to $10 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to address the urgent needs of refugees and internally displaced people in Mali, whose situation is already affecting neighboring countries.

The United States has expressed the need to address the ongoing instability in Mali, voicing the same concerns U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did in a report to the U.N. Security Council dated June 29.

Ban stressed the importance of the implementation of a road map agreed by the Economic Community of West African States and Mali’s transitional leaders, including holding elections and restoring state authority in the country’s north. He also called on Mali’s military to “strictly refrain from any actions that could undermine the transition.”

These follow a wave of political events early this year that saw the toppling of the country’s democratic government and northern Mali’s takeover by Islamists, which has neighboring Niger concerned. Fearing Islamists would cross over to Niger, the government redeployed funds meant for development to beef up security along its border, according to the report.

The situation does not bode well for Niger on the food security front as well. The government’s quick action in August last year enabled it to mitigate the effects of the food crisis in the country. But the influx of refugees from different parts of food-insecure Sahel, including Mali, is stretching already meager resources. Funds raised by the U.N. World Food Program in June, which amounted to $750,000, to provide food to at least 15,000 mothers and children in the Sahel can only last for so long.

Niger is currently host to more than 50,000 Malian refugees, the report notes.

“It would be a huge mistake for the United States and Europe to let the problems in Mali fester any longer,” Benjamin Soares from the African Studies Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, said in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

He voiced what many in the international community fear could happen if the situation in Mali continues: instability spreading to all of West Africa.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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