The Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA) has urged the government to pay attention to grassroots sensitization as the surest way to prevent and counter the menace of violent extremism and terrorism.
A statement signed by Mrs Theodora W. Anti, the Acting Executive Director, FOSDA copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the activities of violent extremist and terrorist groups in West Africa had been on the increase since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said although the Sahel Region of West Africa was currently the epicentre of violent extremism and terrorism (VET), the threat was gradually spilling over.
It said the case of Ghana provided a clear example of the contagion effects of VET in the coastal States due to its strategic position on the West African map, although it appeared the country had not witnessed any direct terrorist attack.
The statement said Ghana had managed so far to prevent attacks despite its vulnerabilities.
It said this raised the critical questions about Ghana's seeming resilience against the risk of VET and how it was responding to the scourge, especially at the border communities.
The statement said this was made known at the Youth Sensitization Workshop on Prevention and Counter Violent Extremism and Terrorism.
It said the virtual workshop brought together 28 FOSDA Peace Ambassadors across the county.
It said the workshop aimed to give first-hand Training on VET for the Youth in response to the threat through grassroots sensitization.
Speaking at the workshop, Mr Ali Ibraheem, Programme Officer, FOSDA, said the factors that made Ghana vulnerable to terrorist attacks were complex and wide-ranging; stating that these include both the Push and the Pull factors.
He added that the Push factors being the structural conditions conducive to VET to emerge included but were not limited to the Socio-economic conditions of the grassroots, Marginalization, and discrimination, poor governance accompanied by corruption and abuse of power, violation of human rights and rule of law, Prolonged and unresolved conflicts, vigilantism and Radicalization in the prisons.
Similarly, Peter Awuni, the Programme Officer in charge of Youth Development, FOSDA, advised the young people to be very vigilant and support the initiative to educate the masses on the menace of VET.
“In spite of the challenges young people face under the current circumstances, we cannot afford to lose hope. The system might be frustrating but continuous advocacy is key to changing the status quo,” he said.
The statement said Ghana had managed to maintain its long history of peace and stability in a generally turbulent region characterised by political crises, armed conflicts, and VET.
It said apart from the lessons that Ghana's experience presented to other countries in the region, it demonstrated how proactive responses could deter potential terrorist attacks, at least in the short to medium term.
It said nonetheless, the activities of violent extremist groups in Ghana's immediate neighbouring countries serve as a continued reminder of the potential threat terrorism poses to the country, especially border communities.
The statement noted that to strengthen the country's resilience against the threat, the recommendations were made, such as the Government should adopt a balanced approach, combining both military and non-military interventions and addressing the socio-economic, political and governance challenges at the root of VET.
It said citizens, communities, civil society, the media, and religious and traditional authorities should be actively engaged in the implementation of the see something, say something Campaign through a whole-society approach in promoting local ownership and participation.
Others are increasing education and awareness of the causes, motivations, modus operandi, and implications of VET to individuals and communities to safeguard and protect the unity of the State.
It recommended enhanced tracking and intelligence-gathering on Ghanaian foreign terrorists to prevent the growth of home-grown terrorism.
It said Ghana could not be complacent with its relative stability; declaring that “the durability and risk of VET in West African coastal States call for increased local resilience and enduring national responses which should be given all the seriousness, attention, and urgency”.