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West African Presidents Pledge US$1 Billion to Fight Terrorism

During ECOWAS extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou the pledge was announced. | Photo: Reuters During ECOWAS extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou the pledge was announced. | Photo: Reuters
The head of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced Saturday that West African leaders pledged US$1 billion to fight the constantly growing threat of Islamist militancy in the Sahel region. 

The fifteen state members of the ECOWAS joined by the presidents of Mauritania and Chad met for an extraordinary summit on Sept. 12 in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, to talk about issues related to the increasing insecurity of the region.

“The ECOWAS commission will contribute financially and urgently to joint efforts in the fight against terrorism,” said the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Kassi after the meeting, also announcing that the pledge will be funded from 2020 to 2024.

The funds are expected to help reinforce the military operations of the countries implicated in the fight against violence in the region. Further details of the plan will be presented during the next ECOWAS summit in December.

In his speech following the gathering, Brou pointed out the mounting toll of violence and called on the United Nations to bolster its peacekeeping mission established in Mali since 2013.

"2,200 attacks in the last four years, 11,500 dead, thousands wounded ... millions of displaced and economic activity have been greatly affected," he added.

The U.N. acknowledged in July that Islamist attacks were expanding in such a rapid way, that the region should think of strengthening its response and reaction beyond current military efforts.

Armed groups with links to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been rooting their foothold across the Sahel region over the last years, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

In 2017, a joint military collaboration of five West-African countries backed by France launched the Group of Five Sahel taskforce to combat the insurgents but the initiative was limited by a lack of funds,  training, and equipment.

As extremist religious narratives and violence considerably grew across West Africa over the past two decades, various analysts believe that military responses alone may not be sufficient to resolve the problem. 

Several reasons can explain the rise of violence ​​​​​​, lack of education may be a factor as illiteracy rates can be very high in some regions of West Africa. Socio-economic problems also constitute a crucial cause as the marginalization of many young people, in addition to the lack of opportunities, can lead them to join or support these groups. 

Finally, the weaknesses of public policies along with acts of abuse of power perpetrated by governments, as well as the corruption and the marginalization of certain regions, play a part in the complex scenario. 

According to experts, armed groups’ recruits hold a deep resentment towards authorities and do not trust the political elites believing they only work to serve the interests of a small group. 

In this context, military responses in the fight against terrorism may not be effective if not accompanied by structural changes preventing these groups from recruiting young people and expanding.

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  • Countries: Africa

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