A three-day Forum of National Security Advisors from 11 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is underway in Accra to deliberate on measures to address emerging security threats to member states in the sub-region.
They are from Ghana, Niger, Benin, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, The Gambia and Senegal.
It is being held under the theme: “Enhancing Rapid and Appropriate Regional Responses to Emerging Security Threat in West Africa: Bridging the Gaps between Early warning and Early Response.”
The forum is also expected to among other things examine models of regional co-operation and co-ordination in security and intelligence among ECOWAS countries in response to cross-border crime and terrorism.
The Minister for Defence, Dominic B.A. Nitiwul, speaking at the opening ceremony, urged the forum to critically examine and assess the emerging regional security threats facing the member states and West Africa with the view of reviewing the national and regional response to those threats and its implications for regional security and stability.
The West African Sub-region, he explained faced a complex array of security challenges that had affected the well-being and survival of citizens, societies and states which include violent extremism and terrorism, transnational organised crime, maritime security threats, cyber security risks and public health emergencies.
The Minister stated that activities of Boko haram, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates had become pervasive in the region leading to the loss of many lives.
“It is a common knowledge that the security situation in the sub-region had gradually deteriorated within the past years with enormous havoc that displaced millions, school closed, markets and healthcare have become inaccessible to many people in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger even more worrisome is the recent spate of military coups in three countries in the region and a failed one in another,” he added.
These situations, MrNitiwul said were perilous to the shared values of freedom and rule of law and vision of free and open societies adding that the sub-region had no choice but embarking on concerted action to reverse the gloomy situation.
He, therefore, urged the forum to develop appropriate strategies to support existing mechanisms to improve on the security of the sub-region through the anticipation of these threats in order to make the regional body more adaptive and responsive to emerging threats.
General Francis Boniface Behanzin Awagbe on behalf of ECOWAS said the creation of a common platform would help provide appropriate responses to combat terrorism through early warning signals and coordinated efforts to address the emerging challenges.
Dr Luka Kuol of the African Centre for Strategic Studies assured of the centre’s continuous support to enable the forum achieve its mandate.
BY LAWRENCE VOMAFA-AKPALU