A combined military and law enforcement exercise, involving about 1,300 personnel from 29 countries, is underway in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with the aim of boosting their ability to counter violent extremism in the sub-region.
Code named “Flintlock 2023,” the field and command operation aspect of the exercise, started yesterday, following the completion of academic work and mission planning, which started on March 1.
At the end of the 15-day annual operation, taking place in five locations in the two host countries, the personnel are expected to build their capacity to collaborate across borders and provide security for their citizenry.
Introduced in 2005, under the United States Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF), the exercise would imbibe in the soldiers the ability to execute their mandate with respect to human rights and build trust with civilians.
Ghana is hosting the exercise for the first time with participating countries including Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.
Other international participants include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Briefing the media at the exercise’s Headquarters (HQ) located at the British High Commission in Accra, the HQ Commander, Colonel Richard Mensah, said four of the locations in Ghana included Accra, Tamale and Daboya.
He said aside the military, other participants were law enforcement agencies, like the police and the Ministry of Justice, Ministry for the Interior and the National Security.
According to him the exercise would help strengthen some of Ghana Armed Forces Squadron as well as boost the country’s ‘See Something, Say Something’ anti-terrorism initiative.
He said ahead of the closing ceremony March 15, there would be a Distinguished Visitor’s Day during which high profile officers of participating countries would visit to acquaint themselves with work done.
“The main aim of the exercise is to build partnerships, train and get ready for any threats. We are also strengthening partnership with our West African counterparts,” he said.
Explaining why marine has been added to the operation for the first time, the SOCAF Deputy Commander, Colonel Robert Zyla, said this was to help reduce maritime threats in response to a request by participating countries.
The G3 at the Ghana Armed Forces HQ (Operations), Colonel William Nortey, said the interoperability of the different agencies offer Africa and western partners the opportunity to learn best practices.
Earlier at the launch of the exercise, the British High Commissioner in Accra, Harriet Thompson, said the operation would help the collective ability to adapt to and overcome the real threats to regional peace and security.
“As nations we will work together to share expertise, knowledge and best practice to strengthen peace and security across the Sahel and Coastal West Africa, because we know that a safer, more secure Continent mean a safer, more secure and ultimately prosperous world,” she said.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR