West Africa a Bastion of Terrorism

Conflict Between Government Forces and Armed Groups Linked to Isis and al-Qaeda

Bastion Terrorism
© Fides

“The West African sub-region is, unfortunately, becoming the bastion of terrorism in Africa. A situation that is becoming increasingly worrying”, writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Donald Zagore, Ivorian theologian of the Society for African Missions, expressing all his concern and alarm for the situation in the area. The conflict between government forces and armed groups linked to Isis and al-Qaeda in the western part of the Sahel has devastated much of the region over the past decade, triggering a significant humanitarian crisis.

According to data from the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project, nearly 7,000 people died due to the worsening of fighting last year. And, according to what was published by the United Nations, the continuing violence has led to the internal displacement of over two million people. Father Zagore notes: “Displaced persons and deaths are increasing. Whole populations living in conditions of total precariousness can no longer take it – insists the missionary -. Almost permanent political instability, violation of democratic values, large-scale corruption, increasingly accentuated poverty, the rise to power of the drug cartels, and clandestine gold, which contribute enormously to the financing of terrorism, are aggravating the social, political, and economic conditions in this part of Africa”.

“Until our States remain prisoners of all these evils without ever fighting them vigorously, their doors will be widely open to all forms of violence and terrorism par excellence. It is no longer time for speeches and eternal summits on the fight against terrorism. It is time to act. People must not become prisoners in their own country”, the missionary said.

Among the other serious episodes of violence registered yesterday, June 13, 2021, we report the death of at least two soldiers and a gendarme, killed by the explosion of their vehicle due to an explosive device in the region of Tèhini, in the north-east of Ivory Coast, near the border with Burkina Faso. According to local sources, the explosion also caused three injuries less than a week after an attack by suspected jihadists in the town of Tougbo, a few kilometers from the border with Burkinabè. The conflict in the Sahel region has caused one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with 24 million people in need of aid this year and 13 million people are starving, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). With its vast, poorly controlled desert expanses and porous borders, the Sahel has proved to be fertile ground for the rise of Islamist militancy in one of the poorest regions in the world, while climate change has worsened competition for dwindling resources.

According to a recent study commissioned by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, youth unemployment and lack of economic opportunities are the main cause of violence, driving many young people to join armed groups. In West Africa, a 1% elite owns wealth more than the rest of the population and governments are not doing enough to reduce inequality through policies such as taxation and social spending, NGO Oxfam said.