Beneath the Apparent State of Affairs
The Potential for Radicalization and Political Violence in West Africa
Crises in the Sahel (from Mali to southern Tunisia and Libya) and the regionalization of Boko Haram’s activities as far as the Lake Chad basin (Niger, Cameroon and Chad) are some of today’s worrying signals related to West African stability.
The question of a potential broadening of this ‘arc of crisis’ to stable countries in the region, including Benin and Ghana, motivated research in the field conducted by the Clingendael Institute. In Accra and Tamale in Ghana, and in Cotonou and Porto-Novo in Benin, the research team looked into religious, historic, political and societal dynamics that may constitute elements of future (in)stability.
New religious “ideologies” (Christian evangelism and/or Sunni revivalism), mixed with economic frustrations, have deeply impacted the traditional balance and make long‑term stability a challenge for most of the countries in the region, from Mali to the Horn of Africa. In this report Clingendael explores the specific ways the Ghanaian and Beninese actors are dealing with politics, identity and societal stress. We also identify the influence of external actors, from both the region and beyond, and potential spill over of nearby conflicts.
Clingendael comes to the conclusion that several issues, like border porosity, absence of a regional strategic approach to counter terrorism, youth frustration towards the elder’s political and economic monopoly, rural and urban disparities and rampant illiteracy are some of the regional aggravating factors that are conducive to the spread of extremist ideology and dividing behaviours. Our report can be considered as an early warning. What is urgently needed is early action.