On Wednesday, August 6, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted a roundtable discussion on security challenges in West Africa. Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham welcomed participants to the event, which was moderated by Major General (Ret.) Christopher Leins, Africa Center senior fellow, and featured Ahmed Abbadi, secretary-general of Rabita Muhammadia of ‘Ulamas (Muhammadan League of Scholars), and Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Rudolph Atallah, Africa Center senior fellow. H.E. Madina Ganou Diaby Kassamba, ambassador and director general of regional cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Burkina Faso, and H.E. Amidou Touré, ambassador and deputy permanent representative of Burkina Faso to the African Union, were also in attendance and contributed closing remarks.
Dr. Abbadi offered a history of the rise of violent Islamic extremist ideology in Africa that sparked a discussion on the ideological component of the war against religious extremism. Panelists also engaged in an exchange of ideas with participants on how best to root out terrorist groups—particularly in the Sahel—that have embedded themselves among local communities.
The discussion focused heavily on what the components of a holistic, effective, and tailored strategy to combat terrorism are. The conversation touched on a broad range of topics, from youth education to strengthening familial ties to bolstering countries’ economic performance to tactical military solutions, though all agreed on the seriousness of the challenge and the need for a coherent, strategic response from countries in the region as well as partner countries farther afield.