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Research Report

Beneath the Apparent State of Affairs: Stability in Ghana and Benin: The Potential for Radicalization and Political Violence in West Africa

Peter Knoope
Grégory Chauzal
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2016
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 42
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 6-8)

    Crises in the Sahel (from Mali to southern Tunisia and Libya) and the regionalization of Boko Haram’s conflict to the Lake Chad basin (Niger, Cameroon and Chad) are some of today’s worrying signals related to West African stability. The question of a potential broadening of this ‘arc of crisis’ to stable countries in the region, including Benin and Ghana, motivated research in the field conducted by the Clingendael Institute.

    The main purpose of this research was to look into the (potential) tensions between religious denominations in the West African region, especially since these divides, in West Africa, traditionally coincide with...

  2. (pp. 9-16)

    Before independence, the colonial rulers empowered local chieftains and Sufi religious leadership to extend their political influence. Like anywhere else in West Africa, the Sufi interpretation of Islam represents a mixture of local original religion (animist cults) and imported Islam from Arab origins.³ This syncretism came under pressure, even before independence, because of its perceived ‘religious impurity’ and its relationship with the repressive colonial powers. With the wave of independence aspirations in Africa, which had strong roots in Ghana, the opposition to the Sufi interpretation of Islamic teachings was even more politicized.⁴

    In 2015, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party,...

  3. (pp. 17-28)

    Like in Ghana, the colonial rulers empowered local kings, chieftains and the (Sufi) religious leadership in Benin, in order to extend their own colonial political influence. The political establishment today still shows the impact and traces of that era. A small ruling class takes the political decisions and dominates the realities of governance. By extension, this elite also controls the distributive circuits and the most lucrative economic sectors. Many members of this ruling elite were educated in European educational institutions, especially in France, and share the same background. They have developed a close proximity and know each other quite well....

  4. (pp. 29-36)

    Border porosity, the absence of a regional strategic approach, youths’ frustration towards the elders’ political and economic monopoly, rural and urban disparities and rampant illiteracy are some of the regional aggravating factors for the spread of extremist ideology and dividing behaviours.

    New religious ‘ideologies’, together with economic frustrations, have deeply impacted the traditional balance and have made long-term stability a challenge for most of the countries in the sub-Saharan region, from Mali to the Horn of Africa. These trends have been emphasized in most of the interviews that were conducted for this research project in both Ghana and Benin. Because...