A new study by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) says the country is not immune to violent extremism, in spite of the appreciable level of peace among citizens.
“High unemployment rate, particularly among the youth, was found to have implications for Ghana’s risk and threat of violent extremism,” it said.
According to the study, unemployed youth were the segment of the population highly susceptible to be recruited to perpetrate acts of violence, while political actors were perceived to be the main sponsors of violent extremism.
This was contained in the 2021 NCCE report on the risk and threat analysis of violent extremism in 10 border regions of the country.
The study is a novel micro-level study on risk and threat analysis of violent extremism in the country by the NCCE and was commissioned to investigate the prevalence and knowledge of violent extremism and determine the vulnerabilities and risk factors associated with it.
It was also to help examine existing institutional responses to the threat of violent extremism and explore the expected role of the NCCE in collaborating with communities and local partners to prevent violent extremism in the country.
The Chairperson of the NCCE, Ms Josephine Nkrumah, told the Daily Graphic that the government must respond to the findings of the report with urgency and accelerate the various interventions that would uplift the youth economically to help prevent the unfortunate situation of a mass recruitment of unemployed youth into violent groups.
“For our country in particular, youth unemployment is one of the key issues that must be addressed as a matter of urgency in spinning the tide of violent extremism.
“So for the NCCE, although we see the various government interventions to reduce youth unemployment, we believe there is a pressing need to accelerate such interventions and ensure that people are economically empowered,” she said.
She said the gathered data on the risk or threat of violent extremism and other forms of violence in the country were crucial to guide policy direction, inform content of education and decision-making regarding the containment and combat of extremist activities in the country.
Ms Nkrumah said the report also pointed to the critical role of education and conscientisation of all citizens, in addition to strengthening institutional responses to fighting the menace.
“This highlights the need for a concerted effort towards strengthening mechanisms for fighting violent extremism and other forms of violence among actors,” she added.
Beyond youth unemployment, which was identified as a major risk, the study also found that the security situation at the country’s inland borders was not comprehensive enough, as it was easy for foreigners from neighbouring countries to enter Ghana.
It said Ghana’s inland borders were porous and could allow easy entry of violent groups, either for recruitment purposes or to pitch camp in remote and hard-to-reach areas along the borders.
Meanwhile, the study found that only 3.5 per cent of primary respondents had ever been involved in acts of violence.
Of the few people who confessed to having engaged in violence, more than half (58.5 per cent) ascribed the reason for their engagement in acts of violence to demand for their rights, while two per cent said they did so to put fear in people.
“Violent extremist acts were found to have negative consequences on a country’s image, lead to loss of human capital, deplete government resources, as well as loss of foreign investor confidence,” it said.
The study also explored institutional responses to fighting the threat of violent extremism, which pointed to a strong collaboration among the assemblies, the police, district security councils (DISEC) and traditional authorities or opinion leaders in the fight against violent extremism in the country.
Reacting to the NCCE study, the Regional Coordinator in charge of research and capacity building at the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP), Dr Festus Kofi Aubyn, said the government must take into consideration other factors that could lead to extreme violence in the country, including the threat of vigilante groups in some parts of the country.
He said although youth unemployment was a major risk factor for extreme violence, there were other factors, such as injustice, marginalisation and ethnic tension, that could push the youth to join violent extremist groups.
Dr Aubyn noted that the most disturbing development that could lead to extreme violence was the inter-religious argument that was going on.
“There are some practices that have gone on for a very long time without any problem and religious tension, but in recent times, we have seen the tension revolving around fasting and issues involving what one wears or the hair style students are allowed to take to school, so you can see that some old practices are being challenged,” he said.
He said such issues could not be resolved through litigation and, therefore, called for broader consultations and dialogue to deal with them.
“The current approach of dealing with it confrontationally has the potential of leading to extreme violence,” he added
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