Since 2016, terrorism has turn out to be a severe risk in Benin and Togo. Violent extremist teams proceed to hold out assaults near the northern borders that these international locations share with Burkina Faso and Niger, or of their territories.
Examples embrace the 9 February 2020 assault on a Benin police station in Kérémou, within the commune of Banikoara, close to the Burkina Faso border, and the kidnapping in Could 2019 of two French vacationers and their native information from Benin’s Pendjari Park.
Amongst civil society and the media in each international locations, the understanding about what causes and drives violent extremism in Benin and Togo is restricted and formed by preconceived concepts that are not primarily based on proof. Data about these concerned in terrorism – their aims, methods and what motivates or leads people to affiliate with violent extremist teams – can also be poor.
This partial understanding is mirrored within the design of initiatives to forestall violent extremism that civil society and media actors are implementing in each international locations. Many of those initiatives fail to deal with the foundation causes and components that make each international locations susceptible to terrorism, and do not at all times construct the resilience of native communities.
The media’s contribution to stopping violent extremism in Benin and Togo is under-exploited
Civil society actors are in direct contact with odd individuals and infrequently have an intensive data of their environments. To learn from this, their contribution to efforts to forestall and counter violent extremism in Benin and Togo must be strengthened.
In each international locations, terrorism is broadly perceived as an exterior risk. Their vulnerability is principally blamed on their proximity to Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria, which for years have recorded assaults attributed to or claimed by violent extremist teams.
Faith can also be considered a driver for violent extremism – in all probability as a result of extremists ceaselessly check with it of their messages and recruitment methods. Civil society actors and the media are then led to consider that Islam is what identifies, mobilises and drives extremists. The proliferation of mosques and Koranic colleges within the northern areas of Benin and Togo is seen as a harbinger of violent extremism.
Pastoralists who’re on the transfer with their livestock, and herdsmen belonging to the Fula group, are largely perceived as being related to extremists, or being extremists themselves. They’re believed to offer alternatives for violent extremist infiltration into coastal states. Socio-economic situations, together with poverty and unemployment, are additionally broadly seen as contributing to the emergence of terrorism in northern Benin and Togo.
The involvement of civil society should transcend merely appointing representatives to committees
A lot of this was mentioned at a 2020 workshop in Benin and Togo organised for civil society and the media by the Institute for Safety Research and the nationwide chapters of the West Africa Community for Peacebuilding.
One other problem is that civil society and media actors are sometimes unaware of presidency establishments at a nationwide degree which might be tasked with stopping violent extremism. Examples embrace Togo’s Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Prevention and Combat in opposition to Violent Extremism (CIPLEV), and Benin’s Excessive Stage Committee for the Combat in opposition to Terrorism and Insecurity at Borders (CLTIF) and the unit charged with implementing its technique.
Civil society involvement in these committees is completely different throughout the 2 international locations. In Benin, the CLTIF is state-led and composed completely of presidency officers from the defence and safety sectors. In Togo, CIPLEV consists of two representatives from civil society and three from non secular denominations – Catholic, Protestant and Muslim.
Civil society can also be a part of CIPLEV’s native committees. Members signify organisations working with ladies, youth, disabled individuals and non secular teams. Nonetheless, the extent to which the designated civil society actors signify their constituencies is usually questioned – as is their actual contribution to the counter-terrorism committees.
Civil society must be on the coronary heart of the design and implementation of motion plans
Aside from one consultant on CIPLEV’s prefectural committees in Togo, the media should not represented in government-led mechanisms for countering and stopping violent extremism. Their contribution, significantly by investigative journalism, awareness-raising and facilitating debates on the phenomenon, stays under-exploited.
Regardless of the significance of the media and particularly radio in disseminating data and opinion, significantly in distant areas, it has to date solely been used to publicise authorities efforts in opposition to terrorism.
The involvement of civil society should transcend merely appointing representatives to committees. Civil society leaders must be on the coronary heart of the design and implementation of motion plans – as shut as doable to affected communities – and will assist monitor and consider the initiatives.
Energetic contributions by civil society and the media can guarantee higher outreach and implementation of presidency initiatives. To ship, nevertheless, they want coaching to higher perceive violent extremism, its nature, who’s concerned, what fuels it and what makes communities and international locations susceptible. This capability constructing ought to embrace data on authorities responses and constructions set as much as forestall and counter violent extremism.
William Assanvo and Ella Jeannine Abatan, Senior Researchers, and Michaël Matongbada, Analysis Officer, ISS Regional Workplace for West Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin
This text was produced with the assist of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the Denmark Ministry of Overseas Affairs and the Worldwide Growth Analysis Heart (IDRC).