Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, delivered a compelling call to action on Thursday, urging the formation of a “global coalition of democracies” to combat the growing threat of violent extremist groups in West Africa. These extremist groups, originating in the Sahel region, have been expanding southward, posing a significant challenge to Ghana and its neighboring nations. In his speech delivered in Washington, Akufo-Addo emphasized the need for collective international efforts to counteract the menace of terrorism and violent extremism, emphasizing the contrast between Western aid provided to Ukraine and the assistance offered to West African democracies.
I. The Growing Threat of Extremism in West Africa
The menace of terrorism and violent extremism is a grave concern for West African nations, with Islamist militants gaining control over substantial territories in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. This situation has prompted the United States and other Western partners to seek ways to bolster the defenses of coastal West African states, including Ghana. Although Ghana has managed to avoid direct jihadist violence, its neighboring countries, such as Togo, Benin, and Ivory Coast, have faced attacks near their borders in recent years.
II. Disparities in Aid
Akufo-Addo drew attention to the disparities in international aid, highlighting the substantial assistance provided to Ukraine compared to the limited support received by West African countries. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the United States alone has contributed $73.6 billion in aid. In contrast, the combined assistance from the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has amounted to a mere $29.6 million over the same period. This disparity underscores the urgent need for increased security assistance in the region.
III. Security Assistance and Western Involvement
The call for greater security assistance comes at a time when both the United States and France have scaled back their security involvement in Mali and Burkina Faso due to escalating extremist violence and military takeovers. The July coup in Niger marked another setback for Western partners in the region. Akufo-Addo, however, emphasized that Western military presence in Ghana or other coastal states is unnecessary, asserting that West African troops are capable of effectively addressing the security challenges. He commended existing cooperation and intelligence sharing among countries in the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel region, highlighting the potential of regional collaboration.
IV. Controversy Surrounding French Troop Presence
The presence of French troops in former colonial territories in the Sahel has become a subject of controversy, with some protesters blaming them for failing to contain the rising violence. French troops have withdrawn from Burkina Faso and Mali and recently began their departure from Niger. Notably, a Washington declaration acknowledging a coup in Niger led to the suspension of $500 million in aid to the country. However, the United States has maintained its force of approximately 1,000 troops in Niger.
V. Overly Militarized Response
As coastal West African states seek external aid, critics of Western-led security assistance in Africa have raised concerns that the increasing instability in the Sahel is partly a result of an overly militarized response. It underscores the need for a comprehensive approach that combines security measures with efforts to address the root causes of extremism and instability in the region.
President Nana Akufo-Addo’s impassioned call for a global coalition of democracies to confront terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa underscores the gravity of the situation in the region. The disparities in aid and the challenges faced by West African nations demand urgent attention from the international community. As Ghana and its neighbors grapple with the evolving security landscape, cooperation among democratic nations and a multifaceted approach that goes beyond military solutions are essential to ensure a more stable and secure West Africa.