Several interconnected conflicts are raging in several countries in the Sahel region of Africa. And yet for much of the world, this hasn’t registered as either noteworthy or very important. But it is, and not just to the countries involved.

Just in 2019 alone, over 4,000 people were killed in terror attacks in the Sahel. 

Violence has spread throughout the region since Islamic jihadists launched a terror campaign in Mali in 2012. It has since spilled over into Niger and Burkina Faso and has crept in Chad and Cameroon, displacing hundreds of thousands. This year there are worrying signs that the conflict could even spread to some West African coastal states. The region’s borders are porous and largely unguarded and this has increased the mobility of the terror groups.

The Islamic State has several offshoot jihadist organizations claiming allegiance to its banner: ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province), ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara) IS-CAP (Islamic State Central Africa Province), and Islamic State Libya are the four biggest organizations operating in the area. 

ISWAP is another name for the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram, which publicly announced its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS in 2015. ISIS, through these different groups, has been recruiting converts in the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia. 

One such smaller group, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS), ran afoul and has been outlawed by the al-Qaeda-linked terror group, al-Shabaab.

Poverty and social discontent are easily manipulated by these terror groups. When combined with Africa’s toxic religious unrest they create a potent pool of many willing recruits. Additionally, in most of these areas, the local governments have been neglectful at best. This has allowed al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to continue boosting their numbers.

Climate change adds further strain to the situation. About 80 percent of the farmland has been degraded and food shortages have thus increased in the semi-arid Sahel. The effects of climate change have also forced the Fulani Muslims from their traditional grazing lands. They have been migrating in search of better fortunes and taking lands through violence, further destabilizing the region.