CAMEROON: CRS Blames Economic Inequalities for Unrest in the Sahel


YAOUNDÉ, OCTOBER 9, 2020 (CISA)-In a recent study, entitled Steps towards Peace by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), deeply rooted economic inequalities and not ethnic tensions are the causes of violence and instability in the Sahel.

“Our report underscores the fact that while the crisis may be painted by some as religious or ethnic in nature, it’s actually a result of perceived inequality and a growing discontent with government,”  Jennifer Overton, the West Africa Regional Director of CRS has said.

“Those living in the Sahel deserve good governance, security, access to livelihoods and improved living conditions,” she added.

According to a report by Agenzia Fides, the study examined the root causes and impacts of the spiraling conflict across three countries – Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where violence has persisted among various armed groups.

The humanitarian needs across the Sahel are staggering, with upward of 1.8 million people displaced from their homes by the violence. According to the United Nations, more than 20 million people, half of them children, are in need of life-saving assistance and protection – the highest number ever recorded in the region.

According to the analysis by CRS, jihadists and organized crime groups are exploiting the poor and unemployed, small communal grievances and mistrust of national political leadership to recruit fighters to carry out acts of violence. Religious extremism does not appear to be a driving factor for the unrest.

Most respondents in the research opposed religious extremism. Community and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, have stood up for unity and peaceful resistance and as a result are the targets of assassinations in attempts to undermine their influence.

For the report, CRS conducted interviews and surveys in the region, including farmers, herders, local militias and religious and traditional leaders. The analysis was conducted in April 2020 and included those living in the epicenter of the violence, in the Liptako–Gourma area, which straddles Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

CRS has been in operation in the Sahel region for more than six decades.