Security experts and stakeholders converged at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) from 7-8 November, 2016, to interrogate the root causes of violent extremism and how Human Security Initiatives could be used to counter this growing trend on the African Continent. The two-day workshop served at a great platform to identify the roles of stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels in the prevention and countering of violent extremism, and to discuss ways in which adopting a human security approach and involving communities can aid traditional law enforcement methods in preventing and responding to Violent Extremism. The workshop was jointly organized by the KAIPTC in conjunction with African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), and was sponsored by the Spanish Government.
The Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Air Vice Marshall Griffiths Santrofi Evans, told the gathering that, “Security mechanisms of the African Union and ECOWAS are increasingly being challenged by the threat of violent extremism”. According to him, “The incidences of violent extremism on the continent demonstrate the extent to which extremist groups are mutating into terrorist groups that undermine the territorial integrity and stability of countries in the sub-region”, and recommended immediate steps to address this menace.
Lt Col Gbevlo-Lartey, the AU Special Representative on Terrorism, during the opening ceremony, cited the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action, which notes that nothing can justify violent extremism, but nothing arises out of a vacuum. There was an urgent need, therefore, to look at the root causes and dynamics that allow violent extremism, and what form of human security approaches were necessary to tackle them.
Hon. Prosper Bani, the Minister for the Interior, and Special Guest Speaker for the opening ceremony, emphasized that Ghana is taking the necessary steps to prevent violent extremism, but needed to do more in the protection of its citizens. The Minister underscored the need to invest in prevention of violent extremism in view of the favorable global institutional and leadership thought in this direction. He noted extreme difficulties with mobilizing resources from the donor community for prevention of violent extremism, and stressed the need for a change in the discourse by focusing on prevention rather than recovery from violent extremism.
He commended the KAIPTC for transforming the security landscape in West Africa, and enumerated some of the Centre’s contributions to a stable security environment, citing the Small Arms and Light Weapons Programme and the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Course that started at the Centre.
During the workshop, experts were of the view that, the degenerated and poor nature of intelligence shared by security agencies of countries in the sub-region was hampering the fight against extremist teachings and recruitment in vulnerable local communities. A Fellow at the Centre for Security Governance, and Sierra-Leonean Security consultant, Dr. Ibrahim Bangura said “the approach towards violent extremism for many African states has been relegated to being looked at only as a security issue but there’s a need to refocus because it is as much a developmental issue as it is a security issue”. He added that “if you look at the push factors, most of them have to do with weaknesses of the state like illiteracy, unemployment and grievances that makes it easy for certain groups to approach individuals and recruit them”
The Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research (FAAR), at the KAIPTC, Dr. Kwesi Aning said “violent extremism does not respect national boundaries; it actually thrives on the bogusness, porosity and incapacity of the State to monitor, curb and control its boarders”.
Among others, the two day workshop provided an opportunity for the relevant government, civil society and local community actors to discuss the concepts of Violent Extremism and Human Security and share experiences and points of view on the issue. Participants also examined the phenomena of indoctrination and radicalization within local communities, and ended the workshop with a list of priorities/recommendations for stakeholders to implement.
The KAIPTC and the ACSRT will collaborate again in 2017 to organise a Countering Violent Extremism Course through an MoU signed between the KAIPTC and the AU.