Workshop on the Contagion of Violent Extremism into West Africa Coastal Countries


Violent extremism, often intertwined with communal tensions and criminality, has continued to gain ground across the Sahel belt of West Africa. Rising instability and the fragile security situation in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have generated concerns among neighbouring West African coastal states about the possibilities of regional spillover. Besides their proximity to countries which are already in the eye of the storm of violent extremism activities, Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Togo are confronted with other local specific grievances and vulnerabilities which may act as catalysts to nurture and fester violent extremist ideologies. These catalysts may include ethnic, sectorial, and religious tensions; real and perceived socio-economic marginalization of certain societal groups; and challenges related to bad governance, youth bulge, impunity of the political elite, and mistrust in state institutions.

Given the already volatile security situation in the West Africa, there is the fear that terrorist and violent extremist groups could exploit the chaotic political scene, structural vulnerabilities, and some local specific grievances to further entrench their position and expand their activities to coastal states of West Africa and beyond. Consequently, the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT/CAERT) and the NATO Strategic Direction- South Hub (NSD-S Hub), jointly organized an expert workshop on the Contagion of Violent Extremism into West Africa’s Coastal states on the 12th of April 2022. The workshop, which took the form of hybrid (virtual and physical) was to facilitate discussions regarding the potential vulnerabilities in West African coastal communities, as well as examining the capabilities and effectiveness of institutional capacities of coastal countries to effectively respond to the threats of violent extremism with the ultimate aim of facilitating policy formulation and implementation that could culminate into efficiently mitigating the emerging security threats in this part of Africa.
The workshop participants included Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) Subject Matter Experts (SME) Representatives from Benin, Ghana, and Togo, who work in the areas of defence, security, and intelligence services and are involved in the design and implementation of responses to violent extremism. Cote d’Ivoire that was invited too did not take part.
Moreover, PCVE Experts drawn from the ACSRT/CAERT, NSD-S Hub, and other regional Institutions including Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Institute for Security Studies (ISS), West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the West Africa Centre for Counter Extremism (WACCE) participated in the workshop as PCVE SMEs.
During the opening session, Mr. Idriss Mounir LALLALI, Acting Director, ACSRT gave opening remarks, and highlighted the importance of starting by analysing the threat of violent extremism to identify its recent trends and forms as the best way to guarantee an accurate response to this scourge, as well as depicted progress made by the ACSRT to prevent and counter violent extremism in Africa. He also reiterated the ACSRT’s capacity building mandate that entails designing, developing, and conducting training programmes aimed at supporting the efforts of the AU Member States. Mr LALLALI, in his remarks, also expressed ACSRT’s appreciation to the NSD-S Hub and indicated the workshop was a demonstration of successful ongoing partnership between the ACSRT and the NSD-S Hub; determined to work tirelessly towards the elimination of the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. Mr LALLALI further encouraged all experts, particularly those from Member States who are directly responsible for PCVE program designs and implementation to feel free to express their opinion of the threats, and how they think the threats could be effectively mitigated to achieve national stability and resilience.
Col. Jose MALLASEN (Branch Head, NSD-S Hub)- representing the Director of NSD-S Hub- expressed the Hub’s concerns regarding the rapidly growing threat of violent extremism across Western Sahel over the past decade, and the fears of the prospect of regional spillover into neighbouring coastal states of Ghana, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. Col MALLASEN also encouraged the SME participants to deepen their reflection on the vulnerabilities and local context specific grievances that could be conducive for the spread of violent extremism in coastal communities, with the aim of understanding the broad-based threats that exist in coastal states.
The workshop participants shared their expertise on the current threats of violent extremism in the Sahel belt, the vulnerabilities conducive for violent extremism in West African Coastal States, community level-specific grievances for coastal communities, and institutional PCVE capacities. National level PCVE responses as well as regional mechanism to prevent violent extremism including ECOWAS Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) and the Accra Initiatives were also discussed. The outcome of the expert workshop will feed into the ACSRT NSD-S HUB joint report to be issued on the contagion of violent extremism into West Africa Coastal States.