West African leaders are meeting in Ghana’s capital for a summit of the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS), where rising insecurity in the Sahel and questions over how the bloc will move to restore civilian rule following three separate military coups across the region are set to loom large.
The meeting on Sunday in Accra comes as the number of armed attacks across the Sahel continues to rise, with the spiralling security crisis – fuelled by a separatist movement in northern Mali in 2012 and a devolving security situation in the country’s central region perpetuated by ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda-linked groups – showing no signs of abating.
The violence, which has spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger and the wider region, has displaced 2.5 million people in the last decade and piqued concerns of attacks spreading into the coastal West African states, with analyst Adeeb Sanni telling Al Jazeera there were at least 19 attacks in Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo in 2021, up from zero in 2019.
The situation has been cast into further uncertainty by the withdrawal of French troops from Mali, where they had been stationed since 2013, and the country’s pivot towards Russian mercenaries.
Critics have also attributed the continued violence in the region to poor governance following military-led coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea that have strained relations with the Western allies and regional organisations.