Jihadist Spillover to Coastal West Africa: Implications for Regional Stability.


    The coastal states of West Africa are facing a spillover of the jihadist violence earlier concentrated to the tri-border between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In recent years, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) affiliates have gained a strong foothold in the region with a 1000 percent increase in deadly violence between 2007 and 2021. Hence, The West’s role as a regional security provider is challenged. Especially by Russian and Chinese influence. Currently, the affiliates Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP) and Jama’at Nustratul Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) are competing to gain ground by conducting almost daily attacks. Now, indications of a shift in the regional security landscape are clear as violence is spilling over to the Gulf of Guinea and particularly Togo, Benin, and the Ivory Coast. There is a jihadist outgrowth of which, even though currently contained, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Senegal also are within future reach.

    With lucrative oil and gas resources in Benin, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, as well as critical mineral resources within the Gulf of Guinea as a whole, incentives rise partly for expanding jihadist influence, partly for external state competition. As the region has experienced a wave of coup d’états since 2020, most recently in Burkina Faso, prospects for future conflict expansion are prevalent.

    KJ-1. It is highly likely that there will be an increased cross-border jihadist presence within the coastal West African states in the next 12 months.

    • In the last decade, Militant Islamist attacks in Africa expanded by 300% and doubled since 2019 [source].
    • Roughly 95 percent of the militant Islamist violence in Africa since 2019 comes from the western Sahel and Somalia [source].
    • In 2022, the western Sahel region tops the list of countries most affected by terrorism [source].
    • On May 10th and 11th 2022, Togo experienced its first deadly jihadist terrorist attacks. JNIM later claimed responsibility [source; source].
    • Since late 2021, Benin has reportedly experienced at least 20 attacks targeting security forces [source].
    • Between March 2021-2022, the Ivory Coast has experienced at least 13 terrorist cross-border attacks from Burkina-Faso [source].
    • Today, every member of the Economic Community of West African States is dealing with some sort of militant Islamist presence [source].
    • Reports indicate that Niger forces are the only ones actively responding to cross-border terrorist activities [source].

    KJ-2. Following the spread of jihadist violence, it is highly likely there will be military coup attempts among the Gulf of Guinea states in the next 12 months.

    • Since 2010, there have been 20 coup attempts in West Africa and the Sahel [source].
    • On August 19th 2020, military forces led by officer Assimi Goita overthrew the Malinese government [source].
    • On May 24th 2021, Goita launched a second successful coup targeting the Malinese government [source].
    • On September 5th 2021, military leader Mamady Doumbouya staged a successful coup targeting the Guinean government [source].
    • On January 24th, military leader Paul-Henri Damiba overthrew the government in Burkina Faso [source]. On September 30, Damiba was overthrown after a second coup this year.
    • Depending on imports, African countries are suffering from soaring food prices due to inflation [source].
    • In July, inflation in West Africa sped up to 31.7 percent, the highest level in 19 years [source].
    • An inability to counter jihadist threats combined with Russian influence are reportedly the main drivers behind recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso [source; source].
    • The ongoing political competition between Russia-supported Mali and France-supported Niger is affecting cross-border counterterrorism efforts [source]. Hence, indications of future civil unrest because of spillover to the Gulf of Guinea states are prevalent.

    KJ-3. because of external interests in the region, it is highly likely that jihadist violence expansion will increase West/East conflict in the region in the next 12 months.

    • In 2017, United States’ (US) imports from West Africa increased 58.6% from 2016 totalling $9.3 billion. The top suppliers were Nigeria, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. Top import category was mineral fuels [source].
    • Following the Belt and Road Initiative and The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China remains Africa’s largest trading partner for the 12th consecutive year. In 2021, the total bilateral trade between China and Africa reached $254.3 billion [source].
    • Recent reports suggest China is taking steps for future import of iron ore from the Simandou mine in Guinea [source].
    • In March, the US announced its intentions to prevent the planned Chinese military base in Equatorial Guinea [source].
    • Russia, and particularly the Wagner Group, is highly active in West Africa and the Sahel in terms of military support and security assistance [source].
    • The E.U. has started an Economic Partnership Agreement with 16 West African states. Although it is not yet ratified, the prospect shows the Union’s trade interests in the region [source].
    • Implications of the Russia-Ukraine war indicate a shift in former French-allied Western African countries aligning with Russia, creating a parallel competition besides US-Chinese regional influence [source].

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: October 26, 2022

    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren is a student at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm. His main focus area is the Sahel Region and West Africa. Specific interests are asymmetric threats, mainly terrorism, covert action, and cyber threats.

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