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West Africa Cooperative Meets Over Sahel Terrorism

Members of the Accra Initiative interact during the opening ceremony of the Accra Initiative summit on West Africa counter-terrorism cooperation gathering heads of state and government in Accra, on November 22, 2022.

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo attended a conference of West African leaders and European ministers in Accra Tuesday to discuss terrorism and warned that security is worsening in the region.

The meeting of the Accra Initiative — a cooperative and collaborative security mechanism that includes Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Mali and Niger — addressed increasing threats from Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

“West Africa continues to suffer from the effect of the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, spreading rapidly across the region,” Akufo-Addo said at the conference.

“Today, the terrorist groups emboldened by their apparent success in the region are seeking new operational grounds, a development that has triggered the southward drift of the menace from the Sahel to coastal West Africa.”

He urged member states to work together to combat rising terrorism as European nations pull out from the region and Russian influence increasingly spreads.

"Our assessment points to the fact that support from members of international community will be needed, but we remain firm in our commitment to shoulder a greater part of the responsibility required while engaging international partners who are willing to respect our status as a home-grown initiative,” he said.

Britain, France and Germany are withdrawing peacekeeping operations in Mali where militants are advancing and expanding their territory.

Violent attacks have killed thousands and displaced more than 2.7 million people in the Sahel, according to the United Nations.

Adam Bonaa, an international relations and security expert with the Accra-based Institute of Security, Safety, Policy and Research, told VOA that ordinary citizens must be involved in counterterrorism efforts.

“There has to be the willingness on the part of the leaders, but there is a serious disconnect where the citizens are doing one thing and the executives are doing another thing. You cannot fight terrorism without the involvement of the people … and that is not what they are doing,” he said.

Information for this report came from Reuters. VOA's Kent Mensah also contributed to the story.

This article has been updated to include Mali and Niger as members of the Accra Initiative.