France, April 2 -- Attacks by jihadists are on the rise in both Niger and Mali, where juntas are keen to hold on to power. The volatile situation in the Sahel region is casting a long shadow over future elections and the return to civilian rule, which now look increasingly distant.

"All parties now acknowledge that the challenges in the region are even higher than expected," says Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, apolitical analystat the Centre for Democracy and Developmentin Abuja, Nigeria.

Earlier this year, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso all declared their intention to leave the West Africa regional bloc Ecowasand form a new entity, the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).

But "AES has limited resources to organise any better response to the security i...