Secretariat’s work

Coastal countries of West Africa: New land of expansion for Sahelian jihadist groups? Mathieu PELLERIN

25 May 2022

The security situation in the central Sahel has deteriorated to such an extent
that the jihadist threat is now spilling over into the northern part of the
West African coastal countries. The regions of the East and the Cascades in
Burkina Faso or those of Sikasso and Kayes in Mali constitute rear bases
allowing jihadist groups – and mainly Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal
Muslimin (JNIM) for the moment – to expand into Benin, Côte d’Ivoire,
and to a lesser extent in Togo, Ghana, Senegal and Guinea. This jihadist
territorial outgrowth will gradually give rise to increasingly endogenous
jihadist cells in these States, made up of local recruits and who feed on the
fragilities specific to the territories where they are developing: tensions of
access to resources, community stigma potentially exacerbated by selfdefence groups, existence of criminal networks quick to “jihadise”
themselves. The spread of jihadist ideology from the Central Sahel beyond
the southern borders is the engine for exploiting and transforming the
frustrations and injustices that arise from these situations of fragility. As in
the Central Sahel where the authorities became aware of this reality too
late. For the coastal countries of West Africa, where the threat is still
contained in intensity and geographically limited, there is still time to
prevent a deterioration in the security situation. To do this, the authorities
of these States must align civil and military responses that are adapted to
the nature of the threat and that drastically reduce the extent of these

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