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Illegal gold mining and livestock trafficking fuel terrorism in Côte d'Ivoire (ISS)

Tuesday, 19 September 2023 18:56
Illegal gold mining and livestock trafficking fuel terrorism in Côte d'Ivoire (ISS)

(Ecofin Agency) - Following the 2016 attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire witnessed an upsurge in terrorist activity between 2019 and 2021. Although the government managed to bring the situation under control, threats persist.

Illegal mining and livestock trafficking have been identified by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) as major sources of financing for terrorists in the country. The institute recently published a report outlining the links between these illegal activities and terrorism.

The ISS based its study in the north of Côte d'Ivoire, near the borders with Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali, where illegal mining is rampant. "The data collected confirms the interest of extremist groups that have operated in the northern part of the country in this illegal activity [...] Testimonies from people active on the sites suggested that the "jihadists" who operate there are very discreet and cautious. Even though they often warn people not to report their presence, they do not use violence and instead offer to secure the sites to prevent their dismantling by security forces. This approach may indicate a desire not to draw too much attention to themselves, for fear of frightening the miners or confronting the internal organization of these sites," states the ISS report, stressing that "some people have indicated or expressed suspicions that the 'jihadists' had also infiltrated sites through individuals acting as informants or recruiters." Terror group members also reportedly use the fear they have generated in the areas to intimidate miners. They also provide funding to finance gold-mining activities for profit.

Another sector where terrorist members source money in northern Côte d'Ivoire is the livestock trade. They buy livestock and resell it through official channels, steal livestock, or sometimes forcibly collect royalties from livestock owners. “Those unwilling to follow suit have no choice but to leave the area or face becoming victims of cattle theft, intimidation, threats of violence, or kidnapping,” the report said.

"To benefit from the protection of the 'jihadists,' I had to give two cattle per enclosure per year. I did it from 2020 to 2022. I also convinced four cattle owners in the area to collaborate with them to protect their cattle. Those who do not want to pay in kind (cattle) pay CFA500,000 annually. Their cattle will never be lost, and no one will bother them," testified a livestock trader in the Tchologo region.

It should be recalled that Côte d'Ivoire has been facing violent extremism since 2016 with the Grand-Bassam attacks. The situation reached another level between 2019 and 2021 when violent extremist groups carried out incursions into Ivorian territory. Although authorities have since managed to contain jihadist attacks, the persistence of extremist group activities in Burkina Faso poses a constant threat to Côte d'Ivoire.

To effectively deal with this security crisis, ISS researchers call on Ivorian authorities to consider all aspects of the situation, not just the response to attacks. "Ivorian authorities, in collaboration with organizations representing the interests of livestock sector stakeholders, are recommended to strengthen the implementation and compliance with the regulations governing this sector in Côte d'Ivoire [...], including communicating about these regulations and raising awareness among all stakeholders [...], strengthening the origin control and traceability of livestock in local markets and during the transport of livestock from the northern region of the country to other national cities, including Abidjan, or creating new mechanisms if necessary," the study emphasizes. In addition, "Ivorian authorities should continue their efforts to regulate the artisanal gold mining sector to increase the share of activity conducted under legal conditions. To achieve this, it is necessary to reduce the costs (financial and administrative) of obtaining mining permits, including the establishment of a one-stop shop, and accelerate the process of revising the mining code to better address the concerns of local populations regarding their access to and practice of gold mining under legal conditions."

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ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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