Marc Ange-Samuel Grah writes the emergence of terrorism in the sub-region especially in Ivory Coast is a cause for concern

Côte d’Ivoire has been embroiled in political turmoil on and off since 2000, but has largely been free from the threat of Islamic extremism. In June 2015, however, Islamist militants in Mali began to attack closer to the border with Côte d’Ivoire. Attacks started to be recurrent in the northern border areas of Côte d’Ivoire, including the Comoé national park area in the north-east. There is a risk of a terrorist attacks elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire, including in Abidjan. A terrorist attack took place at Grand Bassam near Abidjan on 13 March 2016, the attackers re-asserted the place of Al-Qaida as firmly on the map of international jihadism. And, tactically, it extended the range of Islamic terrorism to a country which has been spared its travails. These groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. AQIM mainly operates in the Sahel due to the porous nature of the borders.

Indeed, the region is vulnerable due to the precarious conditions of the people on the ground and lack of rule of law that contribute to the vulnerability or motivation of the people in the Sahel to likely join extremism and islamist movement. The hypothesis of this study is as follows; the emergence of terrorism in the sub region especially in Ivory Coast and its harmful influence on peace, security and development is a cause for concern; indeed Ivory Coast is threatened by numerous terrorist group which destabilising the country. The fight against terrorism demands viable long-solutions that take into account the linkages between counterterrorism, the rules of law and human rights and socio-economic development. However, it is important to counter these attacks in order to prevent terrorists from anchoring in Ivory Coast. There are not much available scholars on terrorism in Ivory Coast, which help to understand terrorist actions. This research will explore the history of terrorism in Ivory Coast and the response of Ivorian authorities against terrorist groups. The case study of Ivory Coast is recent, researchers do not have enough updated information about it since the occurrence of terrorist attacks were not frequent. This research highlights the problems faced by the authorities to deal with terrorist actions and point out possible solutions in order to counter those attacks.

West Africa has made significant progress toward democracy, economic growth, and development in the previous decade, following a long period of conflict, social unrest, and political instability.

Despite this progress, the emergence of terrorism in the sub-region and its harmful influence on peace, security, and development is cause for concern. The frequency and intensity of strikes evidences the increasing sophistication of terrorist organisations in the sub-region in several West African countries in recent years. Terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings, thefts, mass killings, planned killings, acts of piracy and destruction of public and private property, as well as the burning and desecration of religious and sacred sites, according to the 1998 Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. The main terrorist organisations in the sub-region are Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), Boko Haram, and Ansaru (as well as Ansar Dine or Ansar Eddine) in northern Nigeria, as well as Mulabiyoun and the Front for the Liberation of Masina (FLM) in Mali (Amartey, 2022).

In order to undermine peace, security, and stability in the sub-region, these groups have carried out deliberate and frequently repeated violent attacks on citizens, government officials, infrastructure, state institutions, and national and international organisations. As a result, various strategies to address and combat the issue have been developed and put into practice by state and non-state actors in the sub-region, most notably the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with domestic and foreign (state and non-state) actors such as the United States, France, the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations. Therefore, it is important to look how each of these countries has responded (Bavdaž, et al., 2020).

While ransom payment remains the preferred method of ending kidnappings, the slight number of cases and the absence of reliable data on AQIM operations in the Sahel-Saharan region prevent conclusions from being drawn about operational patterns or tactical trends. However, the nature of the target by humans (tourists and European workers) and the preferred areas of operation (Niger and Mali) are two key pointers: One, the scope of AQIM operations remains tied to its Algerian control unit, and two, the objectives of its communications strategy appear to overcome and pay for the absence of effective resources to undermine and challenge the safety of state authorities and the management of land in the Sahel (Chuku, Abang & Isip, 2019).

Despite indications of increased recruitment by Al-Qaida in the Maghreb at the regional level, the organization has failed to convincingly demonstrate the existence of a pan-area structure, let alone a free agreement across the borders. Instead, its ability to act as a meta-network providing logistical and strategic support in the country called Europe and West Africa has made threat assessment and preventive measures more complex and unpredictable. Moreover, AQIM’s enthusiastic ideology and great strategies have not generated the kind of popular support that could endure a full-scale revolution or stimulus internal conflict in the area (Daniel Chigudu, 2021).

While major Islamist doctrines have infiltrated the region and have been able to exploit social and financial desperation, the understanding, syncretic but traditional Islam of the Sahel has proven to be a tough barrier against Islamist extremist attempts to destabilize one of the region’s fragile states. Despite a serious lack of a comprehensive assessment of the situation, domestic terrorism in West Africa lacks deep planning and operational dimensions to pose a reliable threat to regional strength or nation-states (Coccia, 2018).

Al-Qaida in the Maghreb can continue operations because weak and failed states dominate the Sahel. Moreover, it benefits directly from the abuses of the state to justify political inertia and consolidate authoritarian power by invoking the threat of terrorism within the country.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is involved in trafficking, money laundering, and drug trafficking in the Saharan Sahel, Mali, West Africa, and elsewhere, providing minimal financial support and steady recruitment while expanding its transnational reach in one of the world’s poorest regions. The Sahel and West African regions feature the world’s largest concentration of failed states and some of the world’s poorest nations (Collado, 2021).

Half of the countries in the Sahel and West Africa suffer from some form of instability; West African and Sahelian countries account for 11 of the 26 countries most at risk of further collapse and six of the 18 countries with the greatest increase in the risk of instability from 2008-2010 (Boesch et al., 2021). According to the Human Development Index and the Failed States Index, most Sahelian countries are among the worst performers. At the same time, many more are dependent on multilateral institutions for debt repayment and development assistance.

The United Nations Security Council has even informed of increasing or developing security threats in West Africa, in particular extremist activities in the Sahel, maritime uncertainty in the Gulf of Guinea, and illegal drug trafficking that threaten regional strength and have potential implications for international security (Boukhars, 2020). Security problems in the Sahel can thus be traced back to severely underdeveloped areas lacking minimum services, infrastructure, and state control. In Mali and Niger, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb operates where state functions cannot meet the local population’s most basic needs.

The history of West Africa combines great times and destructive conflicts. While the contemporary situation reflects this history in terms of the deep bonds between the peoples of the region, divisions have also emerged due to differences between English and French-speaking countries, political and economic developments, and other factors. A discussion of contemporary vulnerability issues will not attempt to explain the impact of past economic, political and social conditions; however, we recognize that the causes of many of the underlying injustices of vulnerability are deep-rooted (de Montclos, 2018).

Several researches explored the issues of vulnerability where narrow technical approaches, such as technologies to improve crop productivity or water systems, can support vulnerability and poverty reduction goals. We also see opportunities to progress in all areas of development (education, health, economic development, and governance) to create opportunities, safety nets, and a better set of formal and informal resources and support that people can rely on to meet the challenges of environmental variability.

The challenges of environmental variability in the region are exacerbated by environmental poverty and other pressures, exacerbating people’s livelihood difficulties. Some environmental degradation issues in the region, such as soil degradation, have been studied in depth over time, while other environmental issues have only recently been studied in more depth, such as the sustainability of groundwater resources. Ivory Coast faces daunting security challenges, and, against the backdrops of the region’s weak internal capacities and its peripheral status in the global market, the prognosis for the state’s human and regional security over the next two decades appears to be grim. However, through several efforts to prevent terrorism and by making significant progress toward democracy, economic growth, and development in the previous decade, the security environment can witness a significant improvement in the coming years. Despite this progress, the emergence of terrorism in the sub-region and its harmful influence on peace, security, and development are causes for concern.

Grah is  a student in African Studies and International Relations at Ticaret University in Istanbul. He can be reached at Ange-samuel@hotmail.fr

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