Bamako, the Malian capital hosted in the morning of November 5, 2020 a high-level panel on the theme « The Sahel and its hostages ». This panel brings together journalists from some countries in the Sahel region, where armed groups kidnap people and demand ransom for their release.
This panel comes at a time when a large part of Malian opinion believes that negotiations should be held with the armed groups that sow terror in the north of the country. An opinion that is not appreciated by France, which continues to harden the fight against terrorism and other non-state armed groups.
Moderated by journalists Serge Daniel, correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), Ibrahim Manzo, editor of the newspaper « Aïr Info » in Agadez, Niger, and Mauritanian Isselmou Sahili, the panel attempted to answer the question: « Should ransoms be paid to kidnappers? »
Should ransoms be paid to free hostages held by jihadist groups?
In answering this question, Ibrahim Manzo Diallo bluntly stated « No ». « By paying ransom to terrorist groups, it is like giving them a ransom to survive and to rearm themselves, and to rearm themselves morally, especially when you couple this ransom with the release of terrorist prisoners, » he explained.
Making a brief summary of the situation regarding the abduction of people in the Sahel, Ibrahim Manzo noted that from February 2003 to October 2020, 93 people of all nationalities were abducted by armed men, and these abductions took place in Niger, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin and Mauritania. According to the journalist, the money paid for the release of these people is estimated at more than 24 billion CFA francs.
For his part, Isselmou Sahili, an expert on terrorism issues in the Sahel, believes that the best thing is to work to prevent hostage taking. According to him, when there is hostage taking, there are not three (3) solutions: either we must negotiate to free the hostages or we must free them by force. « But force has always shown its limits in the Sahel, » he added.
Let us recall that a few weeks ago in Mali, hostages (the Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, the French humanitarian Sophie Pétronin and two Italian nationals) were released after several months of negotiations with their captors. Less than two weeks before this liberation, the U.S. military freed a U.S. citizen kidnapped in central Niger by unidentified gunmen.