Over the last few years, the threats of violent extremism and terrorism within the West African sub-region has grown into a complex security challenge facing all countries. With recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Togo, neighboring countries like Ghana has been on alert over possible attacks, especially along border communities.
Cross-border trade between Ghana and her neighboring countries is largely informal and facilitated by road transport through both approved and unapproved entry and exit points. Due to weak border controls between countries, activities of violent extremists pose a grave danger to cross-border trading, with traders at risk of possible attacks & radicalization.
To complement the ongoing efforts by state and non-state actors to secure communities in Ghana, especially those along borders, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and selected Regional Peace Councils are building capacity of women and youth in Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) in six Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) on early warning and response to counter the threats of violent extremists.
Given the increasing complexities of violent extremists’ groups, adopting a holistic approach that ensures collaboration among actors at all levels remains the way forward towards addressing these threats.
As rightly stated by the Peace and Governance Analyst at UNDP Ghana, Ms. Melody Azinim, “we cannot adequately address the threats of extremists without the participation of everyone. There is the need to improve the capacity of women and youth, especially those engaged in small businesses in border areas to actively participate in these efforts at all levels”.
Therefore, the training is significant as it is equipping women and youth with the needed skills to proactively identify early warning signals and report to the security agencies for immediate action.
Given that violent extremism negatively impacts the lives and livelihood of all, leaving no one behind in this collective fight is critical to addressing the gaps that provide fertile grounds for extremists’ groups to operate. This has been reflected in the diverse commitments made by participants in these trainings to support the fight.
“This training has been an eye opener, especially on the early warning signs we need to look out for and report. This will help me improve the security and vigilance in my hotel. I will also take the lessons back to my colleagues in the Hoteliers Association so that we can all work together to ensure that violent extremists do not get space to operate”, noted Ms. Wilhelmina Sakle Aklaku, a hotel manager and member of the Ghana Hoteliers Association in the northern region.
“Through this training, I have now understood the various strategies used by extremists to radicalize and infiltrate society. The message I am taking back home is clear, as young people in business, we must contribute to keeping this country safe by remaining vigilant and reporting suspicious activities to the authorities”, added Romeo Amuzu, member of the Volta Region Barbers Association.
The training is improving the capacity of about 300 women and youth in the Micro, Small and Medium enterprises in Kassena Nankana West District, Sagnarigu, Ketu South, Sefwi – Wiawso and Jomoro Municipalities.
As the fight against violent extremism continue to gain momentum, building a broader coalition of actors at all levels, especially in border communities remains the best way forward. After all, this fight can only be won when all hands are on deck and none is left behind.
Romeo Amuzu, member of the Volta Region Barbers Association, contributing to the discussion
UNDP Peace Analyst, Melody Azinim making a presentation on PVE
A group photo with participants from the Ketu South Municipality