Three Heads are Better Than One?

To stem the rising tide of jihadist violence, three West African nations, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso will be conducting joint action against these groups.

The military regimes in the three countries have become increasingly close allies in recent months.

Last September, they formed a mutual defense pact known as the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), withdrawing from an international force, G5, that was set up to fight Islamists in the region.

Violence in West Africa’s Sahel region has worsened in recent years despite the military governments’ promises to deal with the decade-long conflict with jihadist groups.

West Africa Insurgencies

A combination of environmental, religious, and political factors has fueled the rise of ISIS, al Qaeda, and other revolutionary groups in this region.

Environmentally, the Sahel (sub-Saharan Africa) is prone to extensive droughts and other environmental upheavals. For people barely eking out a living, these changes are disastrous. Many of the hardest-hit farmers are in the large interiors of West African nations, which the governments only nominally control.

Religiously, the Sahel, an area that includes the troubled Central African Republic, is on the border between the mostly Christian south and mostly Islamic north. Historically, these two religious groups have not gotten along well at all

We mentioned some political factors above. Quite simply, many rural residents do not think the government cares about them. So, they’re sympathetic to any anti-government group that wants a change of any kind.


In July 2023, a military junta ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, ending the seventh republic. Niger became independent in 1960 and has gone through twelve alternating civilian governments and military dictatorships.

Initially, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military action against the junta. That deadline came and went. Instead, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions, which it unilaterally ended less than a year later, reportedly for humanitarian and diplomatic reasons.

Shortly after the coup, the United States and France both suspended or ended military aid. These moves may have been shortsighted. In response, Niger turned to the Wagner Group. After Wagner disbanded, Niger signed a military assistance agreement with Russia. Military assistance has been pouring in from Moscow ever since.


The situation is equally grim in Mali. A military strongman overthrew the civilian government in 2021 amid concerns that the government could not protect people against insurgents.

Things got worse instead of better. In 2022 and 2023, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara saw major gains in the Mali War, occupying large swathes of territory in southeastern Mali. By mid-2023, the militant group had doubled the amount of territory it controlled since the overthrow of the previous government and the establishment of the junta.

In January 2022, after ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions on the country, Mali closed its borders, recalled its ambassadors from most ECOWAS countries, and expelled the French ambassador. 

A United Nations panel reported that, in the first three months of 2022, 543 civilians were killed and 269 wounded. The report also noted a sharp increase in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance over the previous year.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, visited Bamako in February 2023. He said that Moscow would continue to help Mali improve its military capabilities. A few months later, Mali removed French, the language of its former colonizer, as an official language with the approval of a new constitution by 97 percent of voters in a referendum conducted by the junta.

Burkina Faso

Three governments have ruled Burkina Faso since 2020. Militant groups have taken advantage of the chaos to seize over 60% of the country in heavy fighting. Jihadists laid siege to Disjbo, one of the country’s largest cities, for more than six months in 2022. Also, in 2022, between 100 and 165 people were killed in Setengah Department, and around 16,000 people fled their homes.  In response, the government announced the creation of military zones. Civilians must vacate these zones so that, according to the government,  the country’s Armed and Security Forces could fight insurgents without any “hindrances.”

Government security forces have gone off the chain at least once. In April 2023, the government’s Rapid Intervention Brigade allegedly rounded up villagers in Karma, and executed around 100 of these people.

Contractors and Contractor Injuries in West Africa

When you mix three bowls of melted ice cream together, you do not get a bowl of ice cream. You get a mess. If this last-ditch security effort fails, and it probably will, American private military contractors can quickly fill the void and bolster civilian governments.

Congress could debate earmarks and funding requests for months. But in a matter of days, private military contractors could be in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, supporting new civilian governments. This support often involves training government security forces and shoring up support for the government.

Poorly-trained government forces are no match for experienced and motivated al Qaeda and ISIS fighters. Contractor trainers emphasize both areas. They give government soldiers the tools they need to fight insurgents. Additionally, they give these individuals a reason to fight, namely to preserve democracy. An experienced fighter who believes in a cause often wins the day.

Usually, contractors do not have to issue an order or fire a shot to shore up support for civilian governments. Contractor patrols show people that the government cares about security and is capable of following through on that commitment. Furthermore, non-combat contractors help rebuild roads, bridges, and other parts of the infrastructure so refugees return home.

If contractors are injured while performing their duties, a Defense Base Act lawyer can obtain important financial benefits in court. These benefits include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment.

Lost wage replacement calculator is not a matter of adding the last five paystubs and dividing by five. Many contractors are new on the job. There is a big difference in salary between a truck driver in Mali and a truck driver in Maryland. Furthermore, the AWW (average weekly wage) also accounts for future income losses, such as missed performance bonus milestones.

For more information about DBA medical bill payment, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.