Story by: Ishmael Barfi
According Foundation for Security Development in Africa (FOSDA), activities of violent extremist and terrorist groups in West Africa have been on the increase since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indicating that, Ghana’s neighbouring countries, such as Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo have recorded one form of attack or the other.
“Although the Sahel region of West Africa is currently the epicentre of violent extremism and terrorism (VET), the threat is gradually spilling over”.
This was contained a press release issued on Monday, 13th June, 2022 in Accra and signed by the Acting Executive Director, Ms. Theodora W. Anti after its Youth Sensitization Workshop on Prevention and Counter Violent Extremism and Terrorism on a social media platform, Zoom on Friday, 3rd June, 2022.
The release pointed out that, the case of Ghana provides a clear example of the contagion effects of VET in the coastal States due to its strategic position on the West African map, although it appears the country has not witnessed any direct terrorist attack.
“Ghana has managed so far to prevent attacks despite its vulnerabilities, it said.
This the release raises critical questions about Ghana’s seeming resilience against the risk of VET and how it is responding to the scourge, especially at the border communities.
The workshop held on Friday, 3rd June, 2022 via ZOOM brought together twenty-eight (28) FOSDA Peace Ambassadors across the county.
The aim of the workshop was to give first-hand Training on VET for the Youth in response to the threat through grassroots sensitization.
Speaking at the workshop, Ali Ibraheem, the Program Officer, explained that the factors that make Ghana vulnerable to terrorist attacks are complex and wide-ranging.
These include both the Push and the Pull factors adding that, the Push factor being the structural conditions conducive to VET to emerge included but were not limited to the following: the Socio-economic conditions of the grassroots, Marginalization, and discrimination, poor governance accompanied by corruption and abuse of power, Violation of human rights and rule of law, Prolonged and unresolved conflicts, vigilantism and Radicalization in the prisons.
Similarly, Peter Awuni, the Program Officer in charge of Youth Development advised the young people to be very vigilant and support the initiative to educate the masses on the menace of VET.
He noted “In spite of the challenges young people face under the current circumstances, we cannot afford to lose hope”.
Also indicating that, the system might be frustrating but continuous advocacy is key to changing the status quo”.
Ghana has managed to maintain its long history of peace and stability in a generally turbulent region characterised by political crises, armed conflicts, and VET.
Apart from the lessons that Ghana’s experience presents to other countries in the region, it demonstrates how proactive responses could deter potential terrorist attacks, at least in the short to medium term.
Nonetheless, the activities of violent extremist groups in Ghana’s immediate neighbouring countries serve as a continued reminder of the potential threat terrorism poses to the country especially border communities.
The following recommendations was arrived at the Zoom workshop to strengthen the country’s resilience against the threat
They are as follows:
- The government should adopt a balanced approach, combining both military and non-military interventions and addressing the socio-economic, political and governance challenges at the root of VET.
- Citizens, communities, civil society, the media, and religious and traditional authorities should be actively engaged in the implementation of the SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING Campaign through a whole-society approach in promoting local ownership and participation.
- Increase education and awareness of the causes, motivations, modus operandi, and implications of VET to individuals and communities to safeguard and protect the unity of the State.
- Enhance tracking and intelligence-gathering on Ghanaian foreign terrorists to prevent the growth of home-grown terrorism.
In conclusion, three Press Release emphasized that, Ghana cannot be complacent with its relative stability.
“The durability and risk of VET in West African coastal States call for increased local resilience and enduring national responses which should be given all the seriousness, attention, and urgency”.