ECOWAS: Over 3,500 Terrorist Attacks, 9,000 Lives Lost in West Africa in 2023

No fewer than 3,500 terrorist attacks were recorded in West Africa in 2023, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) revealed  on Friday.

The subregional bloc lamented that about 9,000 lives were claimed as a result of terrorism with the same period under review.

The Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musa, said this has left the body with no other option but to establish an Anti-Terrorism Force to address the challenge.

Musa gave the details on Friday in Abuja at the weekly press briefing of the ECOWAS Commission.

He noted that the bloc is not unattractive as some would want many to believe, stating that the body despite its challenges remain as attractive as before and that the request for membership from Morocco is still on the table and that the three member states that pull out are still seen as members for they have up till February next year for their request to exit to be considered in accordance with Article 81 of the organisation.

He noted that efforts are been made within ECOWAS and outside of the group to persuade the departing member states to rescind their action and retrace back their steps.

He said they are prominent members and importance in the security of the region from the Sahel to the Ocean, insisting that it is unimaginable that they would leave the bloc that has done so much to all the 15 countries, stating that the ECOWAS does not have anything against the association of the Sahelian States of which the three departing countries have formed for their security.

He said that is seen as a bilateral or rather multilateral relations among members for their good and not in conflict with anything under ECOWAS rule.

He applauded the announcement of the formation of joint anti terrorism force by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic, stating that it was a welcome development.

He explained, “The whole geographical area of West Africa is rich in human and natural resources. However, our geographic area is an area of immense vulnerability.

“In 2023 alone, about 3,500 terrorist attacks were recorded in the ECOWAS region alone. This includes close to 2,000 in Burkina Faso, over 1,044 in Mali, and 500 in Niger Republic. These incidents have resulted in close to 9,000 fatalities including 7,000 in the three Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

“In the three Sahel countries, a total of 4.8million people faced food insecurity, 2.4million people were internally displaced and close to 9,000 schools remain closed in the region.

“Burkina Faso has already taken over from Afghanistan”

On the creation of Counter Terrorism Force, Musa said that the region will soon work out modalities to finance the force.

“On terrorism, you would recall during that the previous ECOWAS meeting, the Heads of State decided that there was a need to create a counter terrorism force to help fight terrorism in the region. This is presently underway.

“Very soon, there will be a meeting of Ministers of Finance and Defence to work out the modalities of raising our own resources in the region to finance that counter terrorism force,” he said.

Michael Olugbode in Abuja