West African leaders and European ministers are in Ghana’s capital Accra to discuss regional solutions to the insurgency that is spreading as foreign troops pull out of Mali, where militants have seized vast swathes of territory.
Mali, where West Africa’s insurgency took root in 2012, has been at odds with regional governments, Western powers and a United Nations peacekeeping mission since a military government that seized power in an August 2020 coup failed to hold promised elections.
Collaboration with Russia and alleged army abuses exacerbated tensions.
There are concerns military withdrawals from Mali will create a security vacuum in an area where groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have already branched into Mali’s neighbours and moved into coastal states south of the Sahel.
“Today the terrorist groups, emboldened by their success in the regions, are seeking new grounds,” Akufo-Addo said on the second day of the Accra Initiative security conference.
“The worsening situation… threatens to engulf the entire West Africa region,” he said.
Attacks have increased over the past decade despite efforts to fight insurgents.
The violence has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2.7 million across the Sahel, according to the U.N.
Conflict and climate shocks have also created a food crisis in the region.
Over 30 million people in Sahel will require lifesaving assistance and protection in 2022, almost two million more than the previous year, the U.N. said in June.
“The risk of contagion into the coastal states is not a risk anymore, it’s a reality,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
“We all need to identify the best way to have an impact on the ground,” he said, adding that EU support to the region included “lethal hardware for defensive purposes”.