By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Last week, the president of Senegal embarked on a shuttle diplomacy to the Sahel states of Mali and Burkina Faso. Having promised to bring these countries back to the Economic Community of West African States during his political campaign, it was a step towards walking the talk.

2. Earlier in the year, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger announced their exit from the regional organization with immediate effect. Even though ECOWAS subsequently, softened its stance against the military government in response, the juntas have remained adamant about the rapprochement.

3. As I have written earlier, the Senegalese president’s move was strengthened by his being a newly elected leader and the consequential border it shares with what appears to be the leading country among the junta-led states—Mali.

4. Even though there was an admission by the Senegalese president that bringing back these states was not going to be easy, it was a step that could produce some results. I added that Russia benefits from the schism in the region as the juntas are more likely to maintain their presence in the long term.

5. And so what?

6. A week after President Faye’s shuttle diplomacy, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is in the region on official shuttle diplomacy. Among the countries he has visited are Chad and Burkina Faso. He earlier visited the littoral state of Guinea.

7. Unsurprisingly, Mali was not on the list. The long-time foreign minister was in Bamako in February last year. The junta leader, Asimi Goita, is Russia’s go-to man in the Sahel. Russia has consolidated its foothold in the country and has the most significant security presence therein. This visit is meant to discuss issues that could lead to similar consolidations in other states.

8. Lavrov’s stop in Chad is not happening in a vacuum. In recent weeks, the US announced a pull-out of its forces in the country. While the reason for this is more complicated than it appears, Lavrov’s presence in N’Djamena after the transition to “civilian rule” is to explore the Mahamat-led government’s all-encompassing foreign policy that seeks to engage with all powers scrambling for footholds across the continent.

9. In Burkina Faso, Mr Lavrov pledged more military support in the form of equipment and Russian forces that will help train the forces in their fight against extremism. Even though the fight against terrorism has not improved in recent years and months considering the number of internally displaced persons and deaths from attacks, this promise makes Russia appear as a willing and able supporter of the fight.

10. In the end, Russia has expansive interests across the Sahel and the larger region as it openly offers regime protection in exchange for resources.

Riley Risk Inc. DefSEC Analytics Africa Ltd unival group GmbH hashtag#africa hashtag#sahel hashtag#security

Below: a map of Africa showing parts of the Sahel.

Image Credit: Fidel Amakye Owusu

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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