ECOWAS Ambassador Calls for Robust Education to Prevent Terrorism, Violent Extremism in MRU

MONROVIA – The resident representative and ambassador of the president of the ECOWAS Commission to the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Josephine Nkrumah, says education is the most relevant measure any country can deplore in the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism.

Violent extremism is defined as the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious, or political goals, with massive education and awareness taking center stage.

Ambassador Nkrumah cautioned that terrorism and violent terrorism is real, and everyone was at risk, while rallying public support to avert any occurrence in the Mano River Union basin and other parts of the ECOWAS region.

“Violent extremism and terrorism is real. All of us remain at risk in fighting violent extremism. Economic crimes and money laundering, they are often funded through money laundering measures”.

Ambassador Nkrumah was speaking on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Monrovia at the formal launch of an ECOWAS/GIABA funded project that seeks to raise awareness against terrorism and violent extremism in the Mano River Union region. The Center for Economic Crimes and Security Studies (CESS) is leading this effort in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire.

With the event having university students in huge attendance, the ambassador perhaps chose to design her message in a more strategic manner that speaks to the conscience of those termed as future leaders.

She underscored the need for a more vigorous education intervention among the youth populace owing to their vulnerability to terrorism and violent extremism across the ECOWAS region.

“Why this conversation is important to young people is that violent extremism often finds roots in the youth, radicalizing young people who feel disheartened by lack of good governance, who feel disheartened because they do not have job and skills, who feel excluded from the conversation of governance in their country”.

She continued: “Those people are the ones who are vulnerable to be radicalized by other violent extremists. When you talk about violent extremism often you will find that the few people are young men and women who have been illusioned, whose mindset has been reoriented and viewing violent extremism as means of finding their own relevance in society.”

Madam Nkrumah rallied the support of the public to prevent terrorism and violent extremism from taking root in the society, identifying education as one of the most pivotal drivers of preventing violent extremism and terrorism.

According to her, ECOWAS takes seriously concerns relating to terrorism and violent extremism, pledging the regional body’s support to the work being carried out by the Center for Economic Crimes and Security Studies.

Being aware of the importance of the media in the society, Ambassador Nkrumah called on the local media to play her role by providing education and sensitizing citizens on the requisite information they need to know about terrorism and violent extremism.

Also in attendance at the program was the chairman of the Governance Commission. Prof. Alaric K. Tokpa. Prof. Togba pledged the government’s support to the project being implemented by CESS. He said the commission was at the verge of establishing a unit that deals with CESS priority areas.

Providing an overview of the project, CESS Interim National Coordinator, Trokon A. Freeman, recalled that on 14th September 2019, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government at their extraordinary meeting held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, adopted a political declaration and a regional action plan against terrorism. This action plan has eight components, and component six is devoted to countering the financing of terrorism in the region.

According to him, GIABA was mandated to lead the implementation of this component.

“GIABA has provided funding to two civil society groups to carry out sensitization and awareness on violent extremism and terrorism and other preventative measures in the Mano River Union and Northeastern Nigeria, with the Center for Economic Crimes and Security Studies (CESS) leading the process in the Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)”.

Mr. Freeman pointed out that Violent extremism, political radicalization, and terrorism are major factors that continue to impede the rights to peace, stability and to a larger extent the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

“The project we are launching today is a testament to our collective resolve to not only confront these challenges but to lay the groundwork for a future where peace and prosperity can flourish. Through a comprehensive approach of citizens’ engagement and mobilization, we aim to dismantle the networks that perpetrate these crimes and offer a beacon of hope to those who might otherwise be lost to extremism”.

With support from the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), the Center for Economic Crimes and Security Studies (CESS) will over the next six months lead the efforts on preventive measures in the Mano River Region by partnering with key Civil Society Organizations in the Republic of Sierra Leone and Guinea. The focus and engagement will include stakeholders’ engagement with religious leaders, youth, and women groups, on preventive measures against extremism.

Cognizant of the fact that this side of the region is yet to be affected by terrorism, Mr. Freeman said cannot rule out the potential for occurrences.

“We have seen the rise of violent extremism in our region in some instances due to political disagreement or religious belief, we all need to act to avert the worst that will have not only security implications on our region but economic. The project will also engage with the press, eminent statesmen and women and will hope to bring the three-defense chiefs in a room to motivate young people and the public on danger of violence and the optional approach of the rule of law or dialogue.

He said: “Though the duration of the project is short however, CESS and its partners in the two countries will continue to follow up and come up with monthly if not quarterly report on monitoring and reporting of violence and other forms of incident that are undemocratic and give rise to extremism and violence”.

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