The structural transformation of the economies of West Africa from raw material exporters to value-addition industrialised countries to create jobs for the teeming youth is the ultimate deterrent to threats of violent extremism, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said.
The region, he explained, must, therefore, marshal all its strengths and resources to attain that feat to halt the increasing trend of threats to its peace and security.
The President, who is also the Chairman of ECOWAS, made the assertion when he opened the 2021 Kofi Annan Peace and Security Forum in Accra yesterday.
The international forum attracted a number of former Presidents from across the globe, including Mr John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana and Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, as well as security and peace experts.
The two-day forum is on the theme: “Democracy and governance in the context of complex crises in West Africa”.
It is being organised by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) and the Kofi Annan Foundation, with support from the governments of Germany, Norway and Sweden.
President Akufo-Addo noted that many countries in the Sahel continued to witness a steady rise in violent extremist activities, with many of the territories already threatened by extremism and the intensification of deadly attacks, while new areas were coming under attack.
Recounting the work of ECOWAS over the years, he said the regional body had learnt three decades of conflict prevention lessons.
However, he said, to be proud of the successes chalked up by the regional ectogenic group was not to be blind to its weaknesses or lose sight of the critical threats that continued to undermine security in the region.
President Akufo-Addo explained that the maintenance of peace and security remained a critical challenge in West Africa and beyond, although the magnitude of the challenge varied from state to state, with many countries generally grappling with extraordinary sources of threats that undermined both state and human security.
“Undoubtedly, the most recent of these challenges has been COVID-19, which has eroded, in substantial measure, the economic gains chalked up in recent years and is threatening to exacerbate the already fragile security situation in many parts of the region,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo said other sources of threat related to unacceptable changes of term limits, poverty and economic stagnation, youth unemployment, farmer-herder conflicts, environmental degradation, as well as transnational crimes, such as organised crime, maritime piracy, cyber crimes and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people.
The President said with Ghana assuming a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for 2022-2023, it would ensure that Africa's voice was heard loud and clear.
He gave an assurance that during deliberations of the council, both on matters affecting the continent and on global issues, Ghana would consult broadly to define Africa's interest.
He expressed concern over the fact that the continent was confronted with multiple threats to the territorial integrity of some of its states, resulting in many of its civilian populations being put under serious threat.
“It will be our position on the Security Council that now is not the time for the council to reduce its peacekeeping mandates on the continent. On the contrary, it should look to increasing them,” the President added.
While expressing concern that the quest to consolidate democracy in West Africa was being challenged and complicated by the unacceptable extension of term limits and the intervention of the military in governance, as had occurred in Mali and Guinea, the President said ECOWAS had committed itself to defining timetables for the conduct of credible elections in the two countries, which was in line with the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance.
He indicated that ensuring compliance with the timelines would be good indications with the authority and diplomatic powers of ECOWAS, and God willing the efforts would succeed.
The Commandant of the KAIPTC, Major General Francis Ofori, explained that the 2021 Forum aimed at building political will and reaffirming the avowed commitment to democracy and credible elections.
The forum, he explained, had become crucial, considering the development in West Africa and Africa in general.
He said the state of democracy globally pointed to a democratic backsliding characterised by a sustained and deliberate process of subversion of basic democratic tenets by some political actors and governments.