By Kofi Ampeah-Woode

The maiden West Africa/North Africa Directors of Military Intelligence Conference has ended in Accra, with the security capos meeting to acknowledge intelligence shortfalls and proffer solutions to bridge gaps that exist in analysis, pave way for better integration of intelligence for effective political, social and military direction, for the African continent.

Other expectations of this conference was to come to a convergence of intelligence and policy, where policy would be guided and driven by intelligence, and to achieve a common understanding of the threats that confront the African sub-region, synergizing a multi-faceted approach to resolving them.

The foremost international conference, which was co-hosted by the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), took place at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre (KAIPTC), on the 18th and 19th of September, 2019.

At the inaugural ceremony of the pioneer program, which assembled Military Intelligence leaders from 17 African countries and four NATO partners, it was revealed that over the past four years, there have been 2,200 terrorist attacks within the West African sub region, claiming over 11,400 lives, with several thousands of injuries and millions displaced, living under austere circumstances.

The inaugural ceremony of the 2-day meeting, was addressed by the Minister for Defence and Member of Parliament (MP) for Bimbilla – Dominic Nitiwul, the United States Ambassador to Ghana – Her Excellency (HE) Madam Stephanie S Sullivan, the Director, Intelligence, USAFRICOM – Rear Admiral (R/Adm) Heidi Berg and Director General, Defence Intelligence, GAF – Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Nicholas Andoh.

Mr Nitiwul, in his speech, intimated the commitment of governments in West Africa to fight violent extremism, which he said, was demonstrated at the just ended ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State, held in Burkina Faso on 14th September 2019, at the end of which the Heads of State resolved to avail 1 Billion USD, to support the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in the Sub region.

Minister Nitiwul also stated that violent extremist activities have taken roots in some countries in the East and Horn of Africa, and have extended to the Lake Chad Basin and Sahel region, and that it is clear that some organizations engage in fundraising activities, ostensibly for charity, but end up diverting such benevolent funds to support terrorism and violent extremist activities around the world.

Brig Gen Andoh, said that activities of Violent and Extremist Armed Groups (VEAG) have increased within the West Africa sub region, despite the current national and regional efforts to combat the trend.

General Andoh further stated that the maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea, North Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Red Sea, remains a key strategic objective of the main VEAG operating in Burkina Faso, Mali and other areas of the Sahel.

General Andoh aptly showed that the security situation is compounded by land and chieftaincy disputes, armed robberies, high youth unemployment, the menace of nomadic herdsmen and vigilantism, and that the littoral countries are also faced with rising incidents of piracy, illegal bunkering, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, drug trafficking and the smuggling of exotic plants and animals.

“One of the main pillars for a successful combat strategy in the fight against terrorism and the activities of extremist groups, is accurate and predictive Intelligence, however, there is limited collaboration amongst various national intelligence agencies across the continent, and this constitutes a limitation in the fight against the activities of VEAG”, General Andoh stated.

The population of Africa is presently 1.216 billion and is projected to grow to over 1.68 billion by 2030 (23% of World Population of 7.3 billion) and according to the United Nations, Africa has the youngest and fastest growing population with 19 % of the global youth population and this is expected to double by 2035.

The vulnerability of Africa’s youth population to terrorist ideology is influenced by a multitude of factors, including geographic proximity to terrorist groups, economic vulnerability, perceptions of social or political marginalization and exposure to extremist propaganda.

Dignitaries present included the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) – Lieutenant General OB Akwa, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) – Major General WA Ayamdo, Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) – R/Adm S Amoama, Chief of Air Staff (CAS) – Air Vice Marshal F Hanson and the Commandant, KAIPTC – Major General Francis Ofori.

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