The Network on Peace and Security for Women in the ECOWAS space (NOPSWECO) – Ghana, is cautioning young women on how they engage strangers and give out information about the nation.
Mrs Euphemia Akos Dzather, President, of the Network, at a news conference in Accra on Tuesday, said the caution had become necessary as a result of the increasing danger of violent extremism in West Africa and the growing proximity of the threat to Ghana.
The News Conference was the theme: “Preventing Violent Extremism in Ghana and the Sahel” and the campaign against the act is being replicated across West African Countries.
In Ghana, NOPSWECO will engage in community sensitization forums in the local community, radio and television discussions, video and digital tools to enhance awareness and understanding of the threat and its drivers.
Mrs Dzather said already attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger had increased fivefold since 2016, with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019, and more than four million displaced across the Sahel and 1.2 million displaced in Burkina Faso alone.
Ghana’s proximity to the three countries and Nigeria which are experiencing attacks had led many to predict that the country could be among the next target for attacks in the region coupled with reports that more than 12 young Ghanaians had reportedly been recruited by ISIS and other extremist groups, she said.
Mrs Dzather said most of the time young women fell vulnerable and gullible to some of these extremists who settled at neighbouring countries to re-strategize through building relationships with them and sometimes meeting their financial needs, a situation that sometimes persuaded them into giving out to them information that could pose a threat to the nation’s security.
It, was therefore, necessary to draw their attention to such extremists to deter them from entertaining any person who had too much interest in the nation’s issues.
The NOPSWECO President drew attention to the existence of pervasive ethnic and chieftaincy conflicts in Northern Ghana, together with the over 532 prolonged unresolved chieftaincy conflicts nationwide, political vigilante violence and intra-religious clashes as ones that made the teaming unemployed youth vulnerable to violent extremism.
“Statistics from the Global Terrorism Index for 2020 indicates that 73 per cent of all terrorism deaths in 2020 occurred in countries already experiencing conflicts,” she added.
Moreover, Mrs Dzather said there were many unman exits and entries, especially with the Northern border with Burkina Faso.
Mrs Magdalene Kaunae, the Vice President of the NOPSWECO, said preventing and countering violent extremism programming and state counter terrorism measures had been disproportionately led by the State with more focus on males.
However, a successful prevention of violent extremism would be hard to achieve without the full participation of civil society groups and local community members including women, she said, adding that the local population was best placed to identify signs and threats in their communities before State actors.
“They command higher legitimacy, goodwill and trust from members of the community than the State. They are, therefore, inevitable agents in dealing with violent extremism,” she added.
She called on the media, government, civil society and all stakeholders to make it a priority to work together to build resilience against violence extremism to ensure that Ghana remained a stable and peaceful country.
Mr Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, the Executive Director, West Africa Centre for Counter-Extremism, reiterated that women and the youth were often lured into playing key roles in violence extremism, sometimes without their knowledge, hence the campaign was important to protect the country.
Dr. Charity Binka, the Executive Director, Women, Media and Change, said the appreciation of the youth and the local population of such matter would make willing and able to support the work of the Police, encouraging them to report suspicious activities and dissuade peers from engaging in activities that could lead them into extremism.