The ‘Rwandan Model’ Is No Solution for the Sahel’s Security Crisis

The ‘Rwandan Model’ Is No Solution for the Sahel’s Security Crisis
Rwandan armed forces prepare to board a flight to Mozambique, at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, July 10, 2021 (AP photo by Muhizi Olivier).

Even in the best of circumstances, the central Sahelian countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are structurally some of the world’s most vulnerable states, suffering from endemic poverty, food insecurity, economic exploitation and the compounding effects of decades of mostly misrule. But since 2012, a rebellion in northern Mali has metastasized into a widening crisis that has engulfed the region and now threatens the security and stability of other West African countries as well. Now each week brings a new illustration of the Sahel’s intertwined political and security crises, as military juntas postpone elections, old rebellions re-erupt, jihadists ambush soldiers, cities reel from jihadist blockades, and bandits and militias prey upon ordinary people.

Amid this multifaceted conflict, there has been a long, haphazard and increasingly desperate search for solutions to the jihadist insurgency, which local governments and Western powers see—understandably, but somewhat simplistically—as the region’s top challenge. A French counterterrorism force that was deployed first to Mali in 2012 and subsequently across the region failed—both militarily, in its efforts to curb jihadist insurgency; and politically, in its attempts to maintain buy-in from local populations and militaries. Since 2020, the region’s militaries have presented themselves as the solution, seizing power from civilian governments in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger; in Burkina Faso, a second “coup within a coup” seized power from the previous military junta. As a replacement for the French forces it expelled from the country, Mali’s junta even hired the infamous Wagner Group, which has propped up the regime but only enflamed the insurgency.

In short, none of the military solutions that have been attempted have worked. Now a new long-shot idea is making the rounds: bringing in Rwandan security forces, which have seemingly achieved some success in rolling back insurgencies in Mozambique and, to a lesser extent, the Central African Republic.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.