The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Dr Angela Lusigi, has called for a strong collaboration between state security and the private sector to help fight threats that undermine peace, security and development in African countries.
She mentioned the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, saying they were central to the rise of organised criminal violence, insurgencies and terrorist activities in the Sahel for instance and other parts of Africa.
Dr Lusigi explained that the rising insecurity and instability across borders was fuelling forced displacement and contributing to increased multidimensional poverty as well as structural and gender-based inequalities.
“To ensure a stable West African sub-region we need more effective collaboration and partnerships across borders to effectively deal with root causes and stamp out the double threat of violent extremism and small arms proliferation,” she said.
Dr Lusigi sounded the alert when speaking at the launch of a project dubbed:
“Preventing Violent Extremism, Radicalisation and Small Arms Proliferation in the Sahel and adjoining Coastal Countries in West Africa”.
According to the Global Terrorism Index for 2023, the Sahel region in West and Central Africa is now the epicentre of terrorism.
The Sahel accounted for more terrorism related deaths in 2022 than both South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) combined.
Deaths in the Sahel constituted 43 per cent of the global total in 2022, compared to just one per cent in 2007.
Of particular concern are two countries, Burkina Faso and Mali, which accounted for as high as 73 per cent of terrorism deaths in the Sahel within the period under review.
The period also recorded increased terror activities in the northern parts of Togo and Benin, as part of a wider southward spread of violent extremism and terrorism from the Sahel to coastal West Africa states.
The one-year project, under the Japan UNDP Partnership Fund, is being implemented by KAIPTC in partnership with the Government of Japan and UNDP.
The project seeks to improve knowledge and information-sharing among security personnel and civil society actors in preventing and countering terrorism, violent extremism, and small arms proliferation, diversions and trafficking in seven countries in West Africa through capacity development, training of trainers and a regional policy and experience sharing seminar.
The countries are Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso
The project will also source some logistics in terms of motorbikes for four of the seven participating countries, particularly those in the border areas to improve the effectiveness of their work.
The Commandant at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Major General Addo Gyane said the West Africa sub-region was in a state of flux adding that despite past and ongoing efforts at reducing maritime insecurity in the sub-region, the human security of the people remained fragile.
“Rising armed conflict, deteriorating security, widespread poverty and the impact of climate change are posing a real threat to countries in the sub-region.
Attacks on civilians and infrastructure and conflict between the state and non-state armed groups have led to massive population displacement across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger,” he said.
He explained that interventions that are geared towards ensuring the resilience of communities and state actors in addressing these myriad threats have become very crucial.
For her part, the Chief Director of the Ministry of the Interior, Adelaide Anno-Kumi, said there is a possibility of a greater spread of violent extremism in Africa which could seriously affect development.
That, she said, calls for a concerted and collective effort to guard against it.