The Littorals Regional Initiative
The threat of a spillover of activities of violent extremist organizations into West Africa’s coastal states is real and has begun to manifest. The Littorals Regional Initiative (LRI) is supporting local counterparts in northern Ghana, Togo and Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea to make them more resilient against the possibility of extremist influences.
Funded and guided by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), LRI provides short-term, targeted programming that reduces windows for violent extremist expansion and supports national governments and local communities build prevention capacity. The program is focusing on rural communities at the border with Burkina Faso and Mali where insurgency is pervasive.
LRI seeks to identify and address elements exploitable by VEOs, build and strengthen local capacities, neutralize short-term dynamics of instability and complement and coordinate with other USAID programs. In addition, it is addressing instability factors like democratic backsliding, conflict, weak social cohesion and exclusion.
LRI is building the capacity of influential community leaders and organizations prevent the rise of violent extremism, raise awareness about the threat of these negative factors and the spillover in the Littorals. In its initial target locations in Ghana, Togo and Benin, the program is conducting training with youth, women and community leaders to equip them with the basic tools to prevent violent extremism. The program is also targeting local organizations that enjoy legitimacy from the local population such as the Regional Peace Councils in Ghana.
The program is also working to restore and strengthen collaboration/relationships among community members that would lead to a collaborative action to prevent extremists from exploiting community divisions. In Togo, Benin and Ghana, the program is creating space for intra- and inter- community dialogue and relationship building in target communities.
LRI has identified dynamics of exclusion of the Fulbe and farmer-herder conflicts as a vulnerability to potential negative influences across the Littorals region. In responding rapidly to these conflicts, the program has facilitated an inclusive approach of mediation while piloting multi-ethnic Village Savings and Loan Associations in five high-risk communities in Northern Ghana.
The program is also conducting a series of studies on the relationship dynamics between the Fulbe and non-Fulbe, and between other groups who hold deep-seated grievances against one another. Findings from these studies will inform a comprehensive engagement strategy to increase positive interactions between the groups and communities and prevent the capture of marginalized loyalties by extremist organizations as witnessed in the Sahel.
In addition to its operations in Ghana, Benin and Togo, the program is collecting atmospherics in Guinea that will inform potential future programming in the country and plans to do same in Côte d’Ivoire.