Over the past decade, Sahel has gone from being a non-place – Donald Duck always traveled to Timbuktu in the Malian part of Sahel when he had lost himself in Andeby – to become a place all governments must consider. After Norway bombed Libya in 2011 and Statoil employees Norwegians were killed in In Amenas in Algeria in 2013, public Norway has also begun to take an interest in the countries on the southern border of the Sahara.
In 2016, Norway decided to open an embassy in Bamako in Mali. In February of the following year, Norway hosted a large international donor country conference which raised money for peace and development in Sahel. When the embassy opened in January 2018, it was the first Norwegian embassy in the Sahel ever. In September of the same year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a separate strategy for the Sahel, and shortly thereafter the Ministry was given a separate position devoted to the region.
We are also increasing our military and civilian assistance to the Sahel countries: Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. About 60 Norwegian soldiers in the UN force MINUSMA will try to maintain peace in Mali. Norway contributes 500 million annually to G5 Sahel, a military counter-terrorism campaign driven by the region's five countries.
Stronger government institutions and the "status quo" are not a goal for most people in the Sahel.
But also in the long-term civilian level, the Norwegian pot is increasing: Norway's assistance to Mali has increased every year from NOK 74 million in 2011 to 250 million in 2018. In Niger, similar Norwegian funds increased from 10 to 700 million in the same period.
Sahel has become important not only for Norway, but also for the EU and the US. US military command unit AFRICOM intelligence and train Sahel-
countries' military departments. The EU is the main sponsor of the UN force MINUSMA. France is often the driver for the EU to increase both military presence and civilian assistance to the Sahel – all Sahel countries have been French colonies in the past.
Knowledge-heavy and liberating
A great many consultants and contract researchers have done well crises in the Sahel. Except in France, there is little knowledge about Sahel in Europe, Norway included. Brussels-based International Crisis Group and Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, together with Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies and researchers at the OECD in Paris, have made recommendations after recommendation to bureaucrats and politicians on what to do to achieve peace and development in the Sahel. Without necessarily having so much knowledge of the situation itself; they only know more than the politicians.
Identity societies and temps of crisis is, on the other hand, very knowledgeable and liberating free of solutions to the crises, without any recommendations on what we, the West, should do. In just over 350 pages, divided into 14 chapters written by 18 academics, many of them young and most of them born in the Sahel, they present nuanced images.
The fact that the word "crisis" is included in the book title is probably only something the German publisher of this book, written in French (10 chapters) and English (4 chapters), has wanted for commercial reasons. For many of the authors, "crisis" is normal in the Sahel, and thus the term is used incorrectly. Here we get a number of analyzes of the backgrounds of what we call the "crisis in the Sahel", analyzes that do not just deal with the amount of weapons in circulation, conflicts between cattle herdsmen and peasants, criminal smuggling networks for people and drugs, Islamist movements with support from the Middle East ... In this book, the various chapters provide knowledge to understand how all this may have occurred. For example, it is interesting as Lecocq and Niang points out that the "status quo", or stronger state institutions, which are often a stated political goal when the West talks about the Sahel, is not a goal for most people in this area.
In the Sahel, everything is mobile: people, animals, borders, ethnic affiliation and political alliances. Mobility is something the central government, from the colonial era to the present day, has tried to punish (higher taxes to nomads) and reduce (imposition of permanent residence), without doing so. Mobility is used by people, both rich and poor, for what it's worth. People adapt and take advantage of the opportunities that arise at all times. Many new opportunities arise in collaboration with the state. The weaker the state institutions, the less the state has control over the citizens, and the more opportunities to obtain some benefit.
My only objection to the book is that it could usefully contain chapters on Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso as well. Sahel has been reduced to Senegal, Mali and Niger. However, we gain value for the effort by reading long, informed, detailed chapters on these countries based on thorough, lengthy fieldwork.