West Africa is increasingly using drones against terrorist groups

Burkina Faso begins flying Turkish made armed drones

Since January, Burkina Faso has been using armed drones, having placed, like its neighbors – Togo and Niger – an order in 2021 for Bayraktar TB2s, of Turkish construction. Most of the armed drones used in Africa are produced by Southern partners, such as Turkey, China or Iran. And if they are increasingly visible in the skies, from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, these deployments will not be enough to change the situation in the face of the terrorist threat, according to experts.

Monday, September 19, a Bayraktar TB2 UAV is spotted at Mogadishu airport. Satellite photos are published by Shabelle television. This is the first time that this type of armament has been seen in Somalia.

Last week, several analysts observed the regular rotations of an aircraft north of Niamey, Niger, which strongly resembled those of a drone also.

In Ethiopia, Iranian drones were recently seen in the skies over Tigray. The Dutch Organization for the Promotion of Peace (Pax) estimates that Addis Ababa today has a fleet acquired from various manufacturers: Iranian, Turkish and Chinese.

With these arms contracts, a whole new defense diplomacy is taking shape in Africa. Southern partners offer technologies adapted to the continent’s security challenges, at lower cost. A shift missed by the rich countries, producers of traditional armaments.

In particular, drones have enabled Addis Ababa to repel the latest Tigrayan offensive. But the collateral damage is colossal. The UN speaks of hundreds of civilians killed in Ethiopia since January. Suspicions of blunders are also mentioned in Togo and Burkina Faso.

Acquisition of drones in West Africa will not be a game-changer in the fight against terrorism

While the three West African countries have recently acquired Turkish armed drones to deal with the terrorist threat, for Akram Karief, a journalist specializing in defense issues, these acquisitions are a strategic advantage, but will not be enough to change the situation.

Acquisition of drones in West Africa cannot “be decisive” in the fight against terrorism, according to Akram Karief, a journalist specializing in defense issues “and could fuel the feeling of revenge”