The nation’s capital, Abuja, last week, played host to 28 Ministers of Defence of Community of Sahel -Sahara Sates (CEN-SAD), a sub regional organisation established to promote amongst the 28 member states, co-operation in the field of Defence and security as well as tackle the thorny issues of insecurity across the sub regions.
CEN-SAD, was established in Tripoli, Libya on 4th February, 1998 following a summit of heads of state of Libya, Niger, Mali, Sudan and Chad. The all-African member states of the community have since increased in number to 28.
The sub -regional was also established to improve economic union, integrating investment in fields of agriculture, industry, energy as well as social and cultural sectors and to facilitate the development of transport means such as road, sea, air as well as communication between member states.
Each CEN-SAD conference focuses on one among a wide range of issues such as agriculture, education, environment, and interior matters while the choice of the focal area determines the ministries /department of member countries, whose heads will constitute principal participants at each conference.
This year’s conference was for ministers of Defence of member states as it focused on Defence and Security issues with the theme “Consolidating the achievements of the fight against terrorism through solidarity development actions”.
In Nigeria, the gains accrued from campaigns against terror and insurgency within the nation is being consolidated in so many fronts. The ‘Operation Safe Corridor Programme of Nigeria for instance, which is aimed at addressing the sufferings of the people of the north east and fast tracking the peace process, is worth emulating by other CEN-SAD member states.
This operation is meant to de-radicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered insurgents. There is also the counter terrorism centre at the Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser, established to tackle the root causes of radicalisation and proffer appropriate solution.
The vice president of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, while addressing participants of the conference, said policies that comprehensively tackle poverty, illiteracy and frustration that predispose individuals and communities to imbibing extremist beliefs and ideologies, will put a permanent end to all forms of terrorism in Africa.
Osibanjo noted that the military aspect of the fight against terrorism is the short-term one, as enduring victory will only come from swiftly and diligently building on military victory. “If there is one thing we have learned from our experience fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, it is that the battle is as much social and economic as it is a military one.
The Vice President also said in this ongoing fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the importance of intelligence sharing by member states of the Community has come strongly to the fore, considering the achievements recorded by the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit (RIFU) of the MNJTF in the joint fight against the Boko Haram, as well as the gains made through the Sahel Fusion Liaison Units, which have arisen from the NOA-SHOT-(Nouakchott) Process and the Djibouti Process.
He maintained that the fight against terrorism is not a fight for the military and intelligence agency alone, adding that this fight cannot be won without a collective and determined focus on all those elements that entrench poverty, want and conflict amongst the people of the community, and that sow the seeds of the criminal exploitation and violence.
According to Professor Osibanjo, “Another serious contemporary security threat is the issue of forced migration of people from the community. With over 13 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in 19 countries, Africa remains the continent most affected by internal displacement.
“Forced migration of people, particularly youths from member states of the community to Europe through illegal, unregulated and highly risky routes, has lately become a serious, protracted and expanding global problem. That it is also big business for the powerful transnational criminal syndicates that organise it, further complicates the problem.
“We are confronted by the serious challenge of keeping our young people at home, and providing them enough social and economic opportunities to deter them from falling for the false hopes of greener pastures as illegal migrants in distant countries”.
In his welcome address, the Nigerian Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali said the cooperation and collaboration by member states in the fight against insurgency and terrorism have yielded positive results.
He said the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising of troops from Benin, Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, operating in the Lake Chad region against Boko Haram insurgency in collaboration with Nigeria’s Operation LAFIA DOLE forces, have significantly degraded the Boko Haram terrorists who are currently not controlling any expanse of land in the region and their activities are now limited to suicide bomb attack on soft targets.
He further said a similar feat has also been achieved by the G-5 Sahel Joint Force formed by troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in their operations against Islamic State linked terrorists along their shared borders in order to ensure normalcy in the territory of member states.
Dan-Ali maintained that the tactical and operational successes attained cannot be sustained or consolidated without development of social-economic areas of human endeavours that will positively impact on the life of the CEN-SAD citizens saying that deliberations at this meeting will provide a road map for inclusive sustainable development in the community to consolidate on the gains of the fight against terrorism.
One major point most speakers at the conference emphasised was development at all levels. Nigerian Vice President and every other speaker insisted that once there are developmental policies and structures that impact on the lives of the citizens at all levels, crime rate will be very low.
The 7th CEN-SAD offered member states opportunity to share experiences and reinvigorate the concerted efforts at making the Sahel-Saharan sub region safer and much more peaceful for citizens.
Citizens of member states of CEN-SAD are in high spirit as they hope that sooner than expected, most of security challenges and all forms of insurgency will be reduced to its barest minimum, as it is almost impossible to eradicate crime from societies.
It is expected that initiatives are to be put in place in all member states of the community, so that this meeting will be used to exchange ideas on how to consolidate them through lessons learnt in order to achieve the objectives of the conference. This is because collaboration and cooperation among member states, is required to ensure success in the areas of developmental actions as has been done in the kinetic fight against terrorism.
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