"We went from the denial of reality to the shock," Oswald Padonou, professor of strategic studies at military schools in Abidjan and Cotonou, says of the emotional impact of Benin after the 2019 kidnapping of two French tourists in the Pendjari Park and the killing of their guide.
“We saw what happened in Burkina Faso, Niger or Mali as something foreign or external,” professor Padonou continues. “What we really fear today is community recruitment. We face a phenomenon of endogenisation.”
Slowly, jihadism is taking root in the countries of the West Coast. In Benin, the situation is particularly difficult: the presence of militia in the north is accompanied by the climate crisis that is causing the disappearance of fertile lands and water resources.
It is an escalation that brings social and economic consequences. The clashes between farmers and breeders are increasing, while extremist propaganda is gaining ground. The absence of state institutions in these border areas is a further factor.
Meanwhile, a parallel economy develops, "In this region, there are traffickers of all kinds, so, I think, to understand the strategy of jihadist cartels we must first look at illicit trafficking and which kind of connection groups have among them," concludes Oswald Padonou.
A video reportage by Davide Lemmi and Marco Simoncelli published by Internazionale was made with the support of the Pulitzer Center.
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