Ivory Coast: How Abidjan manages to contain jihadist thrust in north of country

Besides the strengthening of its military system, the government, with the financial assistance of international donors, deploys a plan in favor of the employment of young people.

by Yassin Ciyow (Bounkani region, Ivory Coast, Special Envoy)

Along the roads of Bounkani, a region of the Far northeast Ivorian border of Burkina Faso and Ghana, the constructions still feel fresh painting. Dispensaries, schools, community granaries, drinking water or electrification programs: in the villages that adjoin the immense Comoé national park, hundreds of panels present in progress and just inaugurated projects.

Long marginalized, the Ivorian north is now the subject of special attention from the government and international development agencies. The series of attacks, in 2020 and 2021, not claimed and attributed by the authorities and security experts to Sahelian jihadist groups, is at the origin of this turnaround.

Besides the provision of basic services to the populations, the employment of young people is considered an absolute priority to avoid seeing the young people of the North join the jihadist groups which are rampant in the sub-region. At the beginning of January, President Alassane Ouattara also declared that the year 2023 would be “that of youth”.

Surprises by the magnitude of terrorist attacks and for fear of seeing a jihadist home settle on its soil, the authorities first sought to consolidate their security response: revision of the military card for the benefit of isolated regions, Construction of barracks, sending of special forces, purchase of military equipment, reorganization of the intelligence system, granting a 13 e month of salary to soldiers.

“Dormant cells “

So many actions which, according to Abidjan, made it possible not to identify any attack in 2022, while, at the same time, Benin and Togo knew an increasing deterioration of the security context in their northern part. But “the threat is still there” recall in chorus security specialists, area experts and politicians who are worried about the presence of “dormant cells”. In December 2022, armed groups carried out attacks in villages in southern Burkina Faso, on the other side of the border, causing the arrival of dozens of refugees.

Convinced that the military response cannot everything and that the idleness partly explains the attraction exercised by the jihadist groups, the government, with the support of several international donors including France, thus launched in January 2022 a Plan in favor of youth in the amount of 32 billion CFA francs (some 49 million euros) over three years. The six regions of the north of the country from which Bounkani benefit from it.

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/Media reports cited above.