Geography Quiz: Sahel Edition

World Atlas

“This region of Africa—the Sahel—has faced a cascade of crises: the desiccation of the land due to the climate catastrophe, the rise of Islamic militancy due to the 2011 NATO war in Libya, the increase in smuggling networks to traffic weapons, humans, and drugs across the desert, the appropriation of natural resources—including uranium and gold—by Western companies that have simply not paid adequately for these riches, and the entrenchment of Western military forces through the construction of bases and the operation of these armies with impunity.” 

Vijay Prashad & Kambale Musavuli, People’s Dispatch

Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea — what do they have in common? Could you find the nations leading the anti-colonial drive in the Sahel region of Africa on a map?

Map A – Led by revolutionary Thomas Sankara from 1983 until his CIA-sponsored assassination in 1987. Currently, Interim President Capt. Ibrahim Traoré has pledged support for Niger in that nation’s efforts to expel French and U.S. military occupiers. Technically not in the Sahel on the map above, but shares a border with nations that are.

Map B – “military leaders of Burkina Faso and [this nation] threatened war if the U.S. and France attacked Niger, even if they did so through the Black face of ECOWAS” Ajamu Baraka, Black Agenda Report

Map C – Technically not in the Sahel in the map above, but shares borders with nations that are and has an anti-colonial government. 

Map D – “Following anti-colonial coups, the US and France threaten intervention to re-install a pro-Western regime in [this country], which produces uranium needed for nuclear energy and hosts strategic US drone bases.”  Ben Norton, Geopolitical Economy Report

Map E – People of this nation are known as *****ians in contrast to their neighbors who are known as Nigeriens. Part of the ECOWAS alliance, it has already blockaded Niger in response to NATO nations calling for that nation to be punished for ejecting colonial powers France and the U.S.

Map F – “Operation Restore Democracy”, an ECOWAS operation led by [this nation] in 2017, sent troops into The Gambia to impose a new leader friendly to the West. In the map below, The Gambia is surrounded by this nation on three sides, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Map G – Malik Agar, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council, participated in the recent Russian-African summit in Petersburg. The Wagner Group private militia are said to be supporting theparamilitary Rapid Support Forces in the ongoing civil war in [this country], while the U.S., EU, and UK have imposed sanctions. In particular its Darfur region has experienced much violence.

Map H – Destination for refugees from ongoing war in neighboring Sudan, this nation had its own civil war but not to worry! USAID head Samantha Power visited a refugee camp here and pledged lots of monetary support.

Map I – A strong majority voted in 1993 for independence from Ethiopia. Was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2021 for supporting rebels in Ethiopia’s Tigray Regional State. 

Map J – Part of the anti-ECOWAS alliance to support Niger’s independence from French and U.S. colonial exploitation.

All blank maps sourced from Free Country Map


Map A – Burkina Faso

Map B -Mali

Map C – Mauritania

Map D – Niger

Map E – Nigeria

Map F – Senegal

Map G – Sudan

Map H – Chad

Map I – Eritrea

Map J – Guinea

A highly relevant map showing history in area that overlaps the Sahel region

The US has over 1,000 troops in Niger, put there in 2007 during the Obama years. Are they really there to fight “terrorism”, of a kind that the west supported in Syria, or are they there to advance imperial interests?The US presence in Africa has been disastrous, adding to the very instability that it claims to address, even as African population, natural resources and economic importance are rapidly increasing (with Africa possibly becoming the world’s single greatest economy in the 2060s, according to UN projections).

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Empire, Communication and NATO Wars

This is actually a photo of Germany’s gold reserves, not France’s, but the image of a white guy in a suit counting the stolen wealth of Africa was too good to pass up.

The violence at the center of the relationship between the European colonizer and the colonized “other” has not changed since Europeans spilled out of Europe into the Americas in 1492, only its forms have taken new shapes.  

Ajamu Baraka, Black Agenda Report

ERRATA: A reader pointed out that Obama became president in 2009, so the quote I included about troops into Niger under his watch could not have happened in 2007. I’m guessing that was a typo on the part of the author. Certainly AFRICOM / U.S. military presence on the African continent expanded dramatically during the Obama administration.