African diplomats accredited near Monrovia are recommending to governments to initiate programs that will alleviate poverty, ethnic and religious marginalization and ignorance to reduce the threat of terrorism on the continent.
The diplomats believe that the absence of development and presence of vices are seriously enhancing terroristic acts and threats across the continent.
In separate presentations at a special one-day forum organized by the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 6, 2016, the diplomats, including Guinean Ambassador Abdoulaye Dore; Cameroonian Ambassador, Beng’ Yela Augustine Gang;
Ghanaian Ambassador, Kodjo Asimeng Wade; Sierra Leonean Ambassador, Brima Acha Kamara; Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador Feni Kouakou (represented by a proxy); ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo; Charge d’Affairs of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria, Mohammed Tahir; and Liberia National Security Agency Policy Adviser, Edward Sharpe, alluded to lack of development, marginalization, social and ethnic stereotypes, youth unemployment and political exclusion as some basic influencing factors leading to acts of terrorism.
The African diplomats whose views were nearly identical, told students and invited guests at the forum that West Africa is engulfed in threats of terrorism as attacks in Grad Bassam, Ivory Coast; Bamako, Mali; and Ouagadougou, Burna Faso can clearly manifest.
In wake of the threat, the diplomats alluded that “Terrorism cannot be eradicated, but minimized, and minimizing it requires collaboration in intelligence sharing, training of security, community policing and youth education and employment.”
Guinean Ambassador Abdoulaye Dore, after emphasizing that violence was a form of terrorism, went on to say, “Development in communication has increased, and people can quickly connect nowadays than before. Moreover, population has increased and a few people are becoming wealthy while the majority of the population cannot afford. Such vulnerable people are the ones terrorists want to use.”
He said terrorism cannot wholly be associated with religion; that economic, social and ethnic terrorism exists now, noting that government needs to take the necessary steps to govern well so their citizens can feel the impact of equality.
Ambassador Gang of Cameroon observed that West Africa has connections with other regions of Africa that have their own groupings, and by this, ECOWAS should beware that there’s a need to liaise with those external groupings in tackling the terrorism.
He said maritime piracy is also a threat; that West African countries should have interconnectivity in maritime affairs in the region.
“There is a need for collaboration,” Amb. Gang said, “but with urgency. Involvement of the local population, education for young people, employment, improvements in infrastructure and agriculture and inter and intra state collaborations are essential to fighting terrorism.”
For Ambassador Wade of Ghana, he said though securities are improved in France and other countries in Europe, yet terrorist attacks go on there.
He warned West Africans that these attacks in advanced countries are meant to divert attention so that others not affected could remain complacent to be taken by surprise.
He, too, identified causes of terrorism to include accumulation of internal grievances, social inequality, political marginalization and unemployment. He added that social media was aiding connections among terrorists.
He recommended promotion of human rights, good governance and rule of law, development, united population and vigilance as tools to prevent terrorist attacks.
Ambassador Kamara of Sierra Leone observed that despite the availability of advanced communications equipment, intelligence sharing remains challenging among West African countries.
He therefore called for collaborations in intelligence sharing, training of Special Forces and cooperation between police and communities to counter terrorist threats and attacks.
Ivorian Chargé d’Affairs, Gbègbè Lanta whose country is trying to recover from the terrorist attack on a resort in Grand Bassam, said they are on the alert, and have placed security personnel at all strategic locations in cities.
In addition to alleviation of poverty and addressing needs for employment and social inclusiveness, he also recommended that security should comprise men and women of integrity.
ECOWAS Special Representative Tunde Ajisomo said the regional grouping is concerned about the threat of terrorism and had convened several meetings on the issue.
“West Africa has waited too late to prepare for terrorism,” he said. “How prepared are West African countries, especially Liberia to combat terrorism? We need collaboration with the Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons to control the uncontrollable spread of arms and light weapons because when these weapons are spread, terrorists use them at anytime, anywhere.”
He praised France and China for assisting Africa with manpower and direct interventions in bringing situations under control in areas that had received attacks from terrorists.
Mr. Edward Sharpe, Policy Adviser at the National Security Agency (NSA), said government has held meetings with key stakeholders on security matters in the wake of UNMIL’s drawdown plan, and has deployed police officers at various border points around the country.
Furthermore, he said the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is to help in the process with its customs officers in searching people coming in and going out, and installing CCTV at strategic points of entry, including the Roberts International Airport (RIA).
In an opening statement earlier, the Director General of the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Dr. Augustine Konneh, attributed the cause of terrorism to deprivation of people, extreme poverty and marginalization on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
Dr. Konneh said “Terrorism has engulfed the world, with West Africa being the host of Boko Haram; East Africa, Al-Shabab; and the Islamic State militants disturbing the entire world.”
Recalling attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, he said people have to collectively join to find a solution to the global threat, noting, “It is why the Foreign Service Institute organized the program under the theme: ‘The Threat of Terrorism in the West African Region and the Need for Greater Collaboration among West African Nations’ to discuss the issues and identify solutions.”