On Tuesday 17 January 2023, from 16:00 to 17:30 CET, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) held a Live Briefing ‘Ten Years Later – Lessons from Decade-Long Counter-Terrorism Efforts in the Sahel’ moderated by Méryl Demuynck, Research Fellow under ICCT’s Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism Pillar.
January 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of France’s Operation Serval aimed at countering terrorist groups’ presence across northern Mali, soon followed by Operation Barkhane deployed throughout the broader Sahel. A decade later, the region continues to be destabilised by a plethora of violent non-state armed groups, including various al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated organisations. Alongside a constantly worsening security situation and political instability, illustrated by the multiple coups conducted over the past two years, the Sahel moreover seems to have turned into a major stage for global powers competition and strategic rivalries.
This Live Briefing reflected on the lessons learned from a decade of international, regional, and national efforts to counter violent extremism in the Sahel, and discuss the potential impact of the reconfiguration of the European and international presence – including Barkhane forces’ withdrawal from Mali – on regional security and local communities. It will moreover explore the drivers and impact of the shift away from traditional European partners, and the entry of new actors onto the Sahel’s security scene, including Russian Wagner Group mercenaries.
Méryl Demuynck, Research Fellow at the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Pillar at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.
Richard Apau, Cybersecurity Expert and Data Management and Analysis Professional with over 10 years continues experience teaching, researching and consulting. He currently works as Systems Analyst for the African Union Commission (AUC) at the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Human Security Research Centre Ghana. In his current role, he is responsible for the management and maintenance of the African Terrorism Database hosted by the ACSRT and also conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis on Terrorism incidents occurring in Africa.His research interests and expertise include Countering Terrorist exploitation of ICTs and emerging technologies, Cybersecurity and resilience, Digital Forensic Investigation, and the role of youth in preventing violent extremism. Richard holds a BSc Computer Science and M.Phil Computer Science degrees as well as MSc Cyber Security and Management degree from the University of Warwick, U.K
Delina Goxho, an independent security analyst working for a number of European foundations and civil society organisations. Her research and advocacy interests are remote warfare and security and her main geographic focuses are Europe and West Africa regions. She is also a PhD Candidate at Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) and Scuola Sant’Anna in Italy in the Transnational Governance department. Prior to this, Delina worked for the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and was a research assistant at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA). Delina has experience as a trainee at the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). She holds a Masters degree from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Bologna, Forlì and a B.A. from the University of Cambridge, UK and the University of Verona, Italy. She speaks Albanian, Italian, English and French, and is currently learning Arabic.
Andrew Lebovich, Research Fellow with Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit. His research focuses on security and political issues in the Sahel (and North Africa) with a particular emphasis on religious mobilisation, armed conflict, and sources of local political and religious legitimacy. He is also a postdoctoral researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), researching the impact of European security initiatives in the Sahel. Andrew is also completing a dissertation in African History at Columbia University in New York, where he studies religion, politics, and society in North Africa, the Sahara, and the Sahel. His dissertation examines Muslim reformist movements in Algeria, Senegal, and Mali in the mid-20th century, as well as their continuing impact on politics and social life in the region. Andrew previously worked for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) as a policy fellow, with the Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA) as a Sahel consultant, advising the organisation on political, social, and security issues in West Africa and the Sahel, and for the New America Foundation. He has lived and conducted field and archival research in France, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, and Niger.