By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja, Sept. 21, 2020 President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and government has called for a stronger regional approach to fight terrorism in the Sahel and Lake Chand Basin regions.
Akufo-Addo made the call on Monday during a one-day working visit to the ECOWAS Commission Headquarters in Abuja
He said the call to fight terrorism collectively is imperative as surrogates of Boko Haram and al-Qaeda were taking advantage of the poverty in the areas to do more harm.
He said that the fight against terrorism and extremism was one of challenges listed as his priority five points of agenda which he hopes to achieve as Chairman of the authority.
Akufo-Addo however noted that attaining this feat required the Member States to intensify efforts to ensure that the Plan of Action to eradicating terrorism in the region is well financed with other commitments.
“The challenges in the areas of democracy, health, security, economy, trade and currency must be addressed in the spirit of genuine cooperation and solidarity, if we are to overcome them, which I am confident we can.
“Firstly, the fight against terrorism. West Africa, in recent years, has become a hotbed of terrorist and extremist activities.
“As a result of greater activism of groups operating in the North East of Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, Mali and the Greater Sahel.
“Endemic poverty and widespread disillusionment amongst youth in Africa are not only providing fertile breeding grounds for those who want to cross the Sahara Desert on foot, and the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats.
“In the hope of finding a better future in Europe, but also for a new generation of terrorists and violent extremists.
“This is most worrying, because surrogates of al-Qaeda in the Sahel, and Boko Haram militants, operating around the Lake Chad basin, the two most active terrorist groups in West Africa.
“Are exploiting the unacceptable levels of poverty in these areas, in the recruitment and indoctrination of youth.
“Furthermore, the growing number of breakaway terror groups, notably the spread of ethno-linguistic groups, and the porous nature of our borders.
“In addition to our natural vulnerabilities, call for a strong regional approach to contain the growing threats of terrorist and extremist activities,” Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo recalled the Sept. 12 2019 Extraordinary Summit in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso which birthed the 202-2024 Plan of Action to eradicate terrorism in ECOWAS Member States.
He said the plan of action was adopted subsequently at the 56th Ordinary Session in Abuja with one billion dollars programmed for the financing of the Action Plan.
The Chairman of the Authority said that even though the money may not be enough to fight terrorism, it was important for Member states to take charge of building and not to be dependent on external sources.
Akufo-Addo said that to effectively fight terrorism and deradicalisation, Member States need to successfully and rapidly grow their economies to give hope to their citizens, especially the youths, to deter them from joining extremist groups.
“The money may not enough but even the amount involved we haven’t gotten it yet, so we have to focus on trying to get it.
“The reason why it is important for us to get it is that it is important for us to be in charge of the fight ourselves and not to be dependent on external forces for this fight.
“It is extremely important not just for our sense of dignity but the ability to make sure the fight is carried to a logical conclusion.
“Deradicalaization is a necessary part of the work that we have to do to engage and show our young people that there are opportunities other than terrorist activities.
“And that is also going to be a function of how successfully and rapidly we can expand our economies and grow our economies.
“So that that sense of hope that there is a better future ahead can be widely and rapidly,” Akufo-Addo said.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou pledged the commitment of the Commission to help the Chairman of the Authority achieve his target priorities.
Brou said in order to find lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the sub-region, discussions have been initiated and activities have been planned within the framework of the ECOWAS vision 2050.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission said the COVID-19 pandemic caused a major slowdown of activities in 2020 and greatly hampered the significant progress made by the various member states.
“We welcome the robust and proactive measures taken by all countries in the region to respond to the challenge,” Brou said.