West African leaders, European allies seek to bolster ties to curb terrorism in Sahel
Leaders from West African countries that are members of the Accra Initiative met with European partners in Accra on November 22 for talks on “homegrown” ways to prevent jihadist conflict in the Sahel threatening to “engulf” countries on the Gulf of Guinea.
The Accra Initiative is a cooperative and collaborative security mechanism between seven West African countries, which include coastal states Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo as members, as they face increasing threats and attacks from Islamist militants across the region’s northern borders. The Accra Initiative members discussed how to prevent spillover of terrorism from the Sahel, as more European forces have been withdrawing from the region, especially from Mali, while Russian influence has been growing.
Leaders from the Accra Initiative have also met with representatives from the West African bloc ECOWAS, the European Union, Britain and France.
While warning that worsening Sahel security is “threatening to engulf the entire West African region,” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo also noted that “terrorist groups, emboldened by their apparent success in the region are looking (for) new operational grounds, a development that has triggered a southward drift of the menace.” The goal of the Accra Initiative, the Ghanaian leader said, is to curb that spread of terrorism. He added that member states will own the initiative but will require their foreign partners to support them.
“For years we have been talking about the risk of contagion of the terrorist threat from the Sahel to the coastal states. Today this is not a risk anymore, it is a reality,” EU Council President Charles Michel told the summit. The conflict in the Sahel began in northern Mali in 2012, spread to Burkina Faso and Niger in 2015 and now states on the Gulf of Guinea are suffering sporadic attacks.