From August 31 to September 1, 2023, Africa Center alumni in Benin gathered for a sub-regional colloquium on the theme “Foundations and Implications of Violent Extremism Tending to Terrorism in West Africa: Case of Benin.” The two-day event, coming in the wake of recent attacks in the Northern part of the country, was organized by the Benin Chapter of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ABECESA) in partnership with the Africa Center, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the Irregular Warfare Center, and the College of International Security Affairs. More than 150 participants attended, making it a momentous event in the field of countering violent extremism (CVE) in Benin. The diverse group of attendees included senior-level officials, military representatives, provincial prefects, and opinion leaders who were not members of the alumni chapter, among others.
The two-day program addressed key aspects of CVE in West Africa, including key concepts and definitions, the implications of jihadism in the region, ECOWAS’ action plan against violent extremism, and an examination of the root causes of violent extremism. The colloquium also delved into civil-military relations, provided insights into analytical frameworks for addressing violent extremism in Benin, evaluated government and development-oriented responses, showcased the successes of the ABEGIEF (the Beninese Agency for Integrated Management of Border Areas) border governance model, and examined the roles of civil society and security forces in CVE efforts.
The sub-regional character of the discussions was strengthened by the participation of attendees from neighboring Africa Center alumni communities: Major General (ret.) Shehu Ahmed Yusuf attended on behalf of the ACSS Nigeria Alumni Chapter, Mr. Marcellin Garba attended on behalf of the Burkina Faso Africa Center Alumni Chapter, and Mr. Michel Douti attended on behalf of the Togolese alumni community. This collaboration had its genesis in the Africa Center’s January 2023 Community Chapter Leaders’ Forum, when alumni chapter leaders were given time to consult with each other on best practices and partnership opportunities.
A significant outcome of the colloquium was the establishment of a network of national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to working in the field of CVE. This network of Beninois NGOs promises to enhance collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in Benin and the wider West African region in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism. Through this and other actions, including the participation of more than a dozen provincial prefects and mayors in the colloquium, the symposium showcased the commitment of Benin and its partners to addressing the challenges posed by violent extremism, setting a positive trajectory for future initiatives in the fight against this global threat. Congratulations to ABECESA for convening this timely, strategic conversation!
“I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all the participants who took part in the work of this Conference which will remain in the collective memory of all of us. The path to strengthening inclusive joint work is open with the Benin Chapter of the Africa Center (ABECESA) whose mission is to work in the sectors of research in strategic matters and national security. The Association is a tool for helping and guiding decision-makers in a pan-African vision and pooling our forces and resources…. together we will defeat armed terrorist groups, violent extremists and followers of intolerance, arbitrariness and injustice. The work we do is not easy, our goal is not easy to achieve. But with each of you, individually and collectively, we will achieve the intended goal by overcoming difficulties and obstacles. Together we will give a better and bright future to Benin, West Africa and all African states. This is our belief. This is our commitment. This is our determination. Together and hand in hand we will combine our efforts and we will undoubtedly be victorious.”
Ambassador (ret.) Rogatien Biaou, President of ABECESA