Check your blind spot, confronting criminal spoilers in the Sahel


Western governments focus heavily on the presence of Islamist extremists in the Sahel and have provided technical assistance in an attempt to strengthen the capacity of the security sectors and justice systems in the countries of the region to hold them back. But the preoccupation with West Africa’s war on terror has meant that the destabilising impact of organised crime has been consistently underestimated, if not ignored altogether.

As rebuilding begins in Mali, all signs point to the same oversight happening again. Organised crime is not the primary driver of the current conflict in Mali, but any effort to stabilise or resolve this conflict should explicitly take the presence of organised crime, illicit resource flows and criminal networks into account.

About the authors

Tuesday Reitano and Mark Shaw are senior research associates at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and work for STATT Consulting, Hong Kong ( They are collaborating with the ISS on a programme funded by the National Endowment for Democracy on drug trafficking and democratic governance in West Africa.

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