In March 2016 an attack at the beach resort of Grand-Bassam killed 19 people, of which the majority were civilians. The Jihadist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. Following the incident, the government disbursed a CFA300m (€450,000) support package to the town of Grand-Bassam, with CFA200m (€300,000) going towards affected hotels. In April 2016 the government released a further CFA80bn (€122m) to bolster security and terrorism prevention resources. The elite intervention unit, Police Search and Assault Force, was deployed throughout Abidjan, the economic capital, while mosques identified for their proximity to Wahhabism or radical Islam were placed under government surveillance.
Immediately after the attack, Mamadou Diomandé, president of the Fédération Nationale de l’Industrie Touristique de Côte d’Ivoire, publicly stated that the incident would not affect Ivorian tourism, primarily because the government’s rapid response would prevent any serious drop in morale. This seems to have been the case, with tourism contributing 7.5% of GDP in 2016, up from 4.8% in 2015. In addition, Diomandé called for the reinforcement of security in all tourist areas, especially seaside resorts; tax exemptions on security equipment for accommodation areas and restaurants; and security training for hotel personnel. Increased security spending is expected in 2017, with up to CFA100bn (€152.5m) earmarked to prevent possible future attacks and to instil a sense of safety. The major touristic sites and hotels in Abidjan and surrounding areas now feature regular patrols, security gantries and surveillance cameras, according to local media sources.
By March 2017 the government had arrested 38 people in relation to the attacks – 26 in Côte d’Ivoire, six in Burkina Faso, four in Mali, and two in Senegal – as part of a trans-national anti-terrorist operation, in co-operation with the respective countries’ security forces. Since 2016 the authorities of the aforementioned countries have been working on a common security strategy that includes information sharing on the movements of extremists. The operation reveals the regional nature of the terrorist threat, which does not limit itself to Côte d’Ivoire, as has been shown by similar attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. After an August 2017 attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the Ivorian government intensified police patrols at key hotel and tourist locations, both in Abidjan and Grand-Bassam, according to local media reports.
In addition, the government has recently contracted both the local and Washington-based divisions of security company Securiport with the aim of developing an integrated system of identification to make more effective checks on travellers crossing the Ivorian borders. The contract includes an increase in the quality of checks at Abidjan airport, the reinforcement of ground border controls, the installation of gantry cranes and an increase in identity checks along Côte d’Ivoire’s most important roads. Gantries will be installed on the borders with Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
More broadly on the security front, in August 2017 President Alassane Dramane Ouattara promised to increase investment in the armed forces in order to address recent mutinies. The fighters, many of whom were from poor northern backgrounds, claimed that they had not received the bonuses promised to them for their role in the 2011 conflict. The president announced the government’s intention to improve the quality of life for those who work in the armed forces, and to improve their level of training and available equipment.
While the Grand-Bassam attacks in 2016 and the mutiny in the armed forces in early 2017 impacted the country’s image among tourists, the sector has proven resilient enough for visitor figures to remain on a positive trajectory. Strong sector performance has been helped by a robust government response both in terms of recovery financing, and increased investment in security measures both domestically and regionally.
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