The Brussels-based International Crisis Group has issued a 20-page report warning of the danger of jihadists operating in the Sahel region are moving south into countries such as Côte d’Ivoire. The introduction to the report follows.
The Islamist militants in the Sahel have made repeated sorties into coastal West African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire. So far, Abidjan has largely repulsed their attempted advances, with a mix of security and socio-economic initiatives. It should redouble its efforts on both fronts.
What’s new? As jihadist groups in the Sahel move southward, Côte d’Ivoire has beefed up its security deployment in the north and rolled out a range of social projects to alleviate poverty and youth unemployment. Militant violence has subsided since a series of attacks in the north between 2020 and 2021.
Why does it matter? Insecurity is rampant in West Africa. Militants are encroaching upon littoral states, stepping up attacks in the northern parts of Benin and Togo. Côte d’Ivoire, which has Francophone West Africa’s biggest economy, appears uniquely well placed to guard against the jihadist expansion, but it faces risks nonetheless.
What should be done? Côte d’Ivoire’s twin focus on security and economic development is yielding important dividends for the population in the north. Authorities should enhance social investments and keep building trust between the military and civilians. They should pursue bilateral military cooperation with neighbouring Burkina Faso and increase support for multilateral intelligence-sharing initiatives.