From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), yesterday, said fighting terrorism without tackling its root causes was an exercise in futility.

The Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Finda Koroma, stated this at the launch of the Early Warning Study on the Spill Over of Violent Extremism to ECOWAS Coastal Member States in Abuja.

Koroma highlighted the root causes of terrorism in the West African sub-region to include cases of bad or weak governance, poverty, youth unemployment and human rights abuses.

Koroma stated that threat of terrorism is of great concern to the West African sub-region, saying that the region is regularly targeted by terrorist incidents perpetrated almost on a daily basis by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the Islamic State in the Great Sahara and Ansarul Islam in the Sahel-Saharan space, whilst Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa operate around the Lake Chad Basin.

She added that the lethal use of improvised explosive devices and surprise attacks against the national armies or those of regional mechanisms such as the Multinational Joint Task-Force and G5 Sahel Force, the peacekeeping forces of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali known as MINUSMA in French, the forces from Western countries, from African Countries and from the Member States, helping the G5 Sahel States and Lake Chad Basin Countries in the fight against terrorism, as well on the repeated attacks on isolated villages, including suicide attacks committed by children and women and the massive kidnappings of girls such as the abduction of schoolgirls, represented succinctly the dark picture of the terrorist threat in West Africa.

Koroma further said according to data from the ECOWAS Alert and Response Network (ECOWARN), terrorist incidents perpetrated by Boko Haram alone resulted in more than 30,000 deaths in less than 10 years of subversive activities.

She also said in addition to the physical attacks on the populations and the territorial integrity of ECOWAS member states, terrorism has unprecedented humanitarian consequences.

She said to date, more than three million people have been displaced, disclosing that after North-East of Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel, the Nothern Part of Mali, the threats escalated in the Liptako-Gourma region made up of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Koroma added that from the North of Mali and Burkina Faso, violent extremist groups conducted years back attacks in the southern part of the member states.

Koroma further said since 2019, the southwestern regions of Burkina Faso have seen an escalation of jihadist presence from JNIM’s Katibat Macina, who were present in the Cascades region and in the forests along the Ivorian border.

She stated that the situation explained why Côte d’Ivoire saw a major escalation of violent extremism throughout 2020, including its first jihadist attacks since the 2016 Grand Bassam incident.

Koroma said: “Indeed the ECOWAS Commission understands that it would be illusionary to fight against terrorism without attacking its root causes, such as bad or in some cases, weak governance, poverty, youth unemployment and human rights abuses. This need to address the root causes of violent extremism was specifically mentioned by the United Nations Secretary-General in his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism of December 2015. This Plan of Action asserts that structural factors such as the lack of prospects for youth or unemployment, contribute largely to their adherence to the agenda of terrorist groups which they find attractive and therefore consider as an alternative likely to offer a better tomorrow for them.”

Koroma however said the fight against terrorism does not rest solely on member states or the ECOWAS Commission.

She recalled and the joint policy statement of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government where the sub-regional leaders called on the international community, development partners, relevant international organisations and civil society organisations to coordinate their activities with the ECOWAS Commission.

In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the impact of the responses on counter-terrorism going on in various areas of operations required terrorists to find climes where they can retreat and recuperate.

Onyeama who was represented by the Director, Africa Multilateral Affairs Division, Ambassador Ngozi Ukaeje, also said ungoverned spaces and places where state presence is weak or absent provided the perfect conditions for such activities.

“All member states affected must therefore put more efforts to eliminate these conditions that facilitate the activities and movements of terrorist groups,” Onyeama said.

Onyeama further said only concerted regional initiatives can help to better understand the dynamics of the security challenges facing the sub-region.

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Source: news