The Government of Benin has shown a remarkably strong commitment to stopping the spread of violent extremism. It has invested in its military and its relations with the population and has largely been able to stand its ground against Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs). Yet, from July 2022 onwards levels of violence in the region have increased by more than four times compared to the year before. And worse, they continue to show an upward trend.
This policy brief makes three contributions. First, it shows that three distinct fronts have opened up, each with different social demographics. In these fronts VEOs target different constituencies and tailor their socio-political and religious message accordingly. A second contribution is a warning that the conflict is transforming from an outside problem into a localized insurgency. More and more, village infiltration takes place and VEOs develop deep ties with the population. This is dangerous.
The final contribution is advice to the Government of Benin and its partners to develop a new and flexible response mechanism to directly follow up to VEO visits, identify social tensions and have flexible funding available to address peoples real and immediate needs.