The emergence and subsequent upsurge of violent extremism within countries in the Sahel continues its increasing trend with an inherent threat posed towards the coastal countries in West Africa like Togo, Ghana and the Benin Republic. The threats of insurrection in Togo dates as far back as 15 February 2019 after an attack was captured on a mobile customs unit in the Nohao town in the Bittou Department of Boulgou Province in south-eastern Burkina Faso – a border commune close to the Savanes region of Togo.
This northern region is the most impacted area given that area shares border with districts impacted by terrorism in Burkina Faso. Over time, two significant attacks on security forces have been noted in the Sanloaga and Kpekpakandi military outposts of the Kpendjal prefecture, revealing the existence and intentions of terrorist sects determined to infiltrate and recruit potential members from the non-volatile country. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahel, the Ansaru Islam and the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims are some of the terrorist groups that have often been connected to the existing threats and recent attacks.
The predominant causes of insecurity and violence were initially attributed to communal clashes and civil unrest within the Togolese territory, with acts of criminality attributed to organized crime networks that were responsible for insecurity and instability in the country. However, the 72 hour evacuation order with repercussions of violent attacks on 24 February 2022 made by suspected jihadists on residents of the Lalabiga village in the Madouri district of the northern region revealed the traction and stronghold the terrorists groups have gained within the Togolese territory. Consequently, the prior and subsequent attacks noted in the country on 9 November 2021 and 11 May 2022 incurred twenty one casualities including eight (8) fatalities in Kpendjal prefecture stirred significant tensions and the likelihood of an upsurge in acts of terrorism similar to the uprising of violent extremism in the Sahel.
Heat Map Indicating Spillover Insurrections from Burkina Faso to Togo
The efforts of the Togolese Defense Unit to strengthen the country’s defenses included proactive alliances and joint security operations carried out since 2017; organization of committees for the prevention and fight against violent extremism on 15 May 2019. Meanwhile, the recent attacks within the northern border area exposed vulnerabilities in the Togolese defences, which began with a build-up of sightings of jihadist presence, attacks along the Burkina Faso border and erratic attacks on defence posts in the border districts.
The Coastal countries in West Africa initially suspected the prevalent threat to security defenses in the face of events which have hit back mostly through military operations conducted nationally, bilaterally and collectively within the framework of the Accra Initiative, involving Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, however, the impact has not prevented the spillover insurrections noted in some member states.
The significant attacks within the coastal country should not be underestimated owing to the evolving pattern of terrorism in the Sahel. The recurring assaults could be preliminary attempts at analyzing and sampling the border defenses inadvertently prepping for subsequent strategic and structured attacks to instigate higher fatality counts within the Savanes region, especially the Cinkasse, Sanloaga and Madourie districts of the Kpendjal prefecture.