Accra 17 August 2021.
Government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have been urged to work together towards preventing violent extremism in Ghana and the West African sub-region.
The Minister for National Security, Albert Kan-Dapaah, made the call Tuesday, 16 August 2021, when a delegation from the Human Security Research Centre Ghana (HSRCGh), in the company of a two-member team of human security experts from Switzerland, paid a courtesy call on him in Accra. The Swiss team was made up of Ms Carol Mottet and Ambassador Jean-Daniel Bieler, Senior and Special Advisors, respectively, at the Human Security Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
At the meeting were also representatives of the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), the West Africa office of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Ambassador of Switzerland to Ghana, Philip Stadler. The rest were the Deputy National Security Coordinator, and other officials of the National Security Ministry as well as the Coordinator of the Ghana Border Commission, Major General Emmanuel Kotia.
Reminding all that the threat of violent extremism and terrorism to Ghana was real, the Minister said it was only by working together that both government and the people could stem this tide that was gradually sweeping towards Ghana. He intimated that dealing more effectively with the soft and non-kinetic human security issues was, therefore, the most likely way of preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the country. He acknowledged the critical role of CSOs in this direction and commended them for remaining committed to helping government solve some of the problems that could contribute to violent extremism and attract terrorist activities in the country. He however suggested that they combine and up their effort in reaching out to the public on the relevant issues.
The meeting was briefed on the current steps taken so far to implement Ghana’s National Framework for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism (NAFPCVET), formulated in 2019, and in particular government’s efforts to deal with the population’s relevant human security issues. Following the launch of the Framework, government has since put in place an appropriate architecture for its implementation. This included the creation of a Fusion Centre in Accra, to analyse information from the relevant security agencies and coordinate their activities towards the implementation of the Framework. Part of the effort has also been the establishment of the Border Commission, which is to address traditional security issues while also looking at the drivers and causes of violent extremism and terrorism and to undertake those activities along Ghana’s common border with its neighbours that could help to stem extremist and terrorist activities.
Baseline studies of the border communities have been undertaken to inform on critical issues that needed to be attended to, while the Ministry is also collaborating with the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to educate populations at some border areas to the north of the country. A plan of action was being developed to deepen the efforts to implement the document.
There was a frank exchange of ideas by all present on what was needed to be done to meet the human security needs of the population in order to empower them to resist exploitation by extremists. It was identified, among others, that in order to bring the public on board it was imperative to popularise the NAFPCVET. There was the need to improve the quality of the existing architecture, for example with adding a Human Security Department to the Fusion Centre to handle the non-kinetic issues, and cascading this down to lower levels, and the effective sharing of information by CSOs working in the area of human security.
There was a call for the removal of what the WANEP representative described as the “will” to extremism, arguing that where there is a will there will always be a way. Removing the “will” to extremism would therefore deny extremists the “way” to carry out their activities. Here it was suggested that government needed to build trust with the population, promote dialogue with the governed, make citizens feel a part of the state, ensure effective government presence in every part of the country and empower vulnerable groups to co-create with them the opportunity to use their power basis for preventing violent extremism.
It was noted that Ghana has not had any recent history of terrorism; it was nonetheless crucial that Ghanaians prepare for such an eventuality. In the circumstances the best way to tackle violent extremism was therefore to prevent it, not by only empowering the security sector but most importantly improving human security by addressing the causes and drivers of violent extremism. It was also important to nurture among the population patriotism, civil responsibility, and social cohesion, among others.
The Minister was happy that the meeting was an attempt “for us to have an even better understanding of the problems and how best international partners and CSOs could help achieve the objectives of the framework.” It was his hope that the CSOs would connect with and partner government. He therefore pledged his Ministry’s support to the local CSOs and their international partners, assuring them of government’s avowed commitment to working with them to prevent violent extremism in the country.
The NAFPCVET document outlines a four-pillar strategy to tackle violent extremism and terrorism in Ghana. The four pillars are Prevention, Pre-empt, Protect and Respond. The Prevention Pillar provides in part a place for CSOs, who are enjoined to contribute in diverse ways to complement the effort of the National Security Council (NSC) to explain the security consequences of terrorist attacks and the implications of the involvement of the youth to their families, communities and the nation at large.
The meeting was engineered by the HSRCGh, the aim being to introduce the Swiss partners to the Minister and offer local CSOs a platform to collaborate in a unified manner to contribute to the many efforts directed at preventing violent extremism in Ghana.
Credit: Human Security Research Centre, Ghana