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Fighting extremism requires more than military response

botchway September 19, 2019


By Bernice Bessey

The United States Ambassador to Ghana, HE Stephanie Sullivan, has urged African leaders not to depend solely on military response as a means of tackling terrorism and violent extremism challenges facing the continent.

According to her, preventing the spread of violent extremism depended on strengthening law enforcement, border security, development, health, education, administration of justice, public outreach, good governance, and private sector growth that generates jobs

In her view, the solution to violent extremism required paying attention to all these mentioned areas and thinking beyond purely military responses.

“We must also remember that when military responses are applied, our armed forces must respect the human rights of the citizens they protect and defend in order to merit their public trust and confidence,” she urged

HE Stephanie Sullivan was addressing the opening ceremony of the West Africa-North Africa Directors of Military Intelligence Conference 2019, under the theme “Intelligence Support to Operation” held yesterday in Accra.

She added that though the various militaries, on a daily basis, are fighting terrorists and extremist groups, these are also constantly learning and adapting, seeking new ways to exploit the weaknesses of countries.

She said the borders are no meaning to these malign actors, “that is why protecting our own individual countries requires protecting the entire region.”

The Ambassador, in the light of this, underscored the need for military leaders to coordinate daily with other agencies and ministries within their respective countries to develop go’ernments’ response, not only to the threats the region faces, but also to the driving factors underlying those threats.

The Defence Minister, Dominic Aduna Bingab Nitiwul, on his part, called on heads of military intelligence in West and North Africa engaged in a two-day conference to design an international framework necessary to combat the menace.

According to him, contemporary crime had taken a dynamic and complex nature on the continent, hence, it calls for critical reflections by intelligence and security experts to foster collaborations against those common enemies.

He said the maintenance of peace and security in Africa remains a critical challenge, as the continent is scourged by transnational and organised crimes that include terrorism, political strife, civil wars, violent extremisms, cyber-crimes, and farmer-herder conflicts.

“The situation is compounded by poverty, limited economic opportunities, environmental degradation, health pandemics, political and economic interferences from within and without. These contemporary threats facing our countries call for greater collaboration than ever, and are likely to dominate our discussions, as we have assembled here today for the purpose of achieving a common objective,” he said.

He said violent extremist activities had taken root in some countries in the East and Horn of Africa, and have extended to the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel region, adding that these activities had given rise to population marginalisation and institutional dislocations, making it difficult for states to maintain peace and order.

He continued that despite political and diplomatic discussions, scholarly discourses, and civil society engagements could bring legitimacy and relevance to policies on peace and security, as these threats continue to grow.

Mr Nitiwul reiterated President Akufo-Addo’s call on African leaders to prioritise access to education for Africa’s youth, as a means of combating terrorism and violent extremism, since about 89 million young Africans of school-going age are not in school.

The Defence Minister then urged the heads of military intelligence to use the conference as a great opportunity to make up for the shortfalls in intelligence gathering and sharing.

“Let me conclude by reminding all of us that the solutions of stabilising West and North Africa to halt the spread of violent extremism and to safeguard the territorial integrity of our respective countries, largely rests with us.

“Let me also add without hesitation that intelligence is key in the fight against violent extremism in Africa, and I, therefore, urge all countries in Africa to upgrade and enhance their intelligence capabilities,” he charged.

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