Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also chairperson for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for support in eradicating terror groups in the region.
“There is a serious challenge as you know. Several of our countries just face attacks, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, others that have faced threats. So it is a continuing problem. As long as we have these terrorist groups, as long as we have even within our own region, groups as the groups that are operating in the north of Mali that continue to be a problem, as long we have that, it will always be a threat,” Sirleaf told Reuters.
The ECOWAS chair highlighted financial constraints facing many African countries and called for international support in the fight against terrorism.
“The resources to fight it, it is insufficient on the basis of ECOWAS’ own capacities. The capability to do it, you know, wherever military response will be necessary, the United Nations is a place where that support is coming from and bilateral partners; key bilateral partners either to countries or to the region as a whole. It is very important for us to be able to have the means to respond to these threats,” she said.
Many West African countries fear the insurgency posed by the Islamic State militia who have in the recent past carried out attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ivory Coast.
The worst hit country in West Africa is Nigeria. Africa’s most populated country has witnessed several attacks by Boko Haram which has declared its allegiance to the Islamic State, which has seized parts of Libya, Syria and Iraq.
Northern Mali has also been seized by several armed groups that have acquired guns from Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Experts say Islamic State’s growing presence in north Africa and ties with Boko Haram could herald a push south into the vast, lawless Sahel region and create a springboard for wider attacks.